December 2, 2012

Two cheers for the Obama Era fertility crisis

Ross Douthat writes in the NYT:
More Babies, Please

IN the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition. 
It’s a near-universal law that modernity reduces fertility. But compared with the swiftly aging nations of East Asia and Western Europe, the American birthrate has proved consistently resilient, hovering around the level required to keep a population stable or growing over the long run. ...
If, that is, our dynamism persists. But that’s no longer a sure thing. American fertility plunged with the stock market in 2008, and it hasn’t recovered. Last week, the Pew Research Center reported that U.S. birthrates hit the lowest rate ever recorded in 2011, with just 63 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. (The rate was 71 per 1,000 in 1990.) For the first time in recent memory, Americans are having fewer babies than the French or British. 

The biggest plunge in fertility since the Subprime Bubble was among unmarried illegal immigrant women. Fertility among married white American-born citizens has been more stable.

Is that so awful?

Conversely, at the peak of the Bush Housing Bubble, births to unmarried Hispanic women grew 9.6% from 2005 to 2006, while births to married white women fell.

Was that so healthy?
But deeper forces than the financial crisis may keep American fertility rates depressed. Foreign-born birthrates will probably gradually recover from their current nadir, but with fertility in decline across Mexico and Latin America, it isn’t clear that the United States can continue to rely heavily on immigrant birthrates to help drive population growth.

The tragedy of declining fertility in Mexico and how it dooms America to defeat in World War III for lack of cannon fodder or whatever seems overstated. After all, total fertility rates plunged in Mexico throughout recent decades, while they were higher among Mexicans in America in 2006 than in 1986 (before the last amnesty set off a massive baby boom among ex-illegals).

Why? A big reason is that because those who can't afford to have as many children as they want in their own countries come here to have them.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

In 1988 American and Mexican popular culture hadn't been so completely absorbed by even the peasantry. The big pool of working class Mexican ladies who want to have four kids...doesn't exist anymore. Telenovelas have seen to that.

Average Joe said...

The reason why fertility rates will likely stay low in the United States is because Americans can't afford to have many children. If the powers that be really want to boost the birth rate then they should stop trying to drive down the wages of the average American worker through the use of immigrant labor and outsourcing. Once American wages start rising in real terms, the birth rate should soon follow.

Anonymous said...

What are white American fertility rates like compared to white European rates?

kurt9 said...

Many social conservatives simply don't get it. A long-term growth oriented economy is necessary for a higher birthrate. Who right in the head wants to have kids on a limited budget, with the threat of layoff or business failure over their head. Being a childless slacker is a rational choice in a no-growth economy.

Restore economic growth and more people might consider having kids. Continue to hamstring the economy with more and more regulations and government interference, in general, and watch our birthrate decline to Japanese levels.

It really is that simple.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say they come to America to have more babies, but that they have those babies simply as a source of added revenue. Those babies represent more 'meal' tickets, and will often give them preference when attributing social housing.

Reducing social benefits for large families is the quickest, most effective way to cut down on immigrant fertility rates. When children represent a net cost to your family, you really begin to think about what's affordable or not.

Whiskey said...

While growth rates, income, and the trajectory (rising or falling) are important, its not the only reason for falling birth rates.

Pretty much most commentary ignores the critical component: women, and how willing they are to have kids in prime fertility and thus remove themselves from the most desirable men?

Women are not baby machines. A woman is much more able to have say, three kids if she starts at 20, than at 35. This is just fact. But to have a kid starting at 20, pretty much removes a woman from the prime men. A true Alpha male, the most desirable man, won't commit to a woman with a kid, much less one at 20 or 25. No-strings sex? Sure. Alphas are not picky (see Bill Clinton, Gavin Newsome, Antonio Villaraigosa, Tiger Woods, or Charlie Sheen) about who they have sex with. They ARE in who they marry/cohabitate with.

IF you want to jack up the birth rate, particularly among White women, you need to make the cost (no commitment by Alphas) go down. In other words, increase the supply of Alphas. Game is IMHO only a partial solution; the rest will have to come from increasing radically the status of ordinary men (which makes them effectively Alpha) compared to ordinary women. That's about as likely as a moon colony in the next ten years, so we will HAVE to live with low and ever-lowering birth rates.

The key thing most people miss here is that money is not the only motivating factor in human behavior, sex and desire are much older, and more powerful.

I am not unsympathetic for most young women cast adrift in a society without any rules or behavioral safety net. And their choices: chase Alphas in their prime, "settle" for one designer eugenic yuppie baby with a beta male they despise, is as understandable as Paula Broadwell and the General. Petraeus had two married women fighting over him via e-mail because he had people groveling and jumping to his every word. He was situationally Alpha.

If we want as a society young women age 20-25 having kids (required for fertility increase) we better find a way to increase the kinds of guys who will commit to women that age.

Anonymous said...

"What are white American fertility rates like compared to white European rates?"

1.3 - 2.2 across America, and 1.1 to 1.9 across Europe with different groups having greater/lesser predilection for children.

We aren't facing some demographic crisis that simply must be corrected for. America is fine as is, and Europe could stand to shed some population.

DaveinHackensack said...

Douthat seems to be tacking back to David Brooks territory after his great recent column. If his oeuvre keeps tacking between the poles of Brooks and Sailer, that's not so bad.

"Many social conservatives simply don't get it. A long-term growth oriented economy is necessary for a higher birthrate. Who right in the head wants to have kids on a limited budget, with the threat of layoff or business failure over their head. Being a childless slacker is a rational choice in a no-growth economy."

True, and we should unpack "budget" here too. Lagging incomes are part of it, but so are rising health care, education, and housing costs. Through trade and immigration policies, the government has been depressing median wages, and various government policies (cheap credit for housing and education; unlimited 3rd party payments via Medicare & Medicaid, etc.) have conspired to keep health care, education, and housing costs high. And at the same time, the government borrows more to continue to subsidize these sectors, which in turn requires the government to borrow more, etc.

It's pretty amazing when you think about it, that the government managed to inflate housing prices while bringing down the wages of those working in home construction at the same time. And it's also amazing that the Dems' proposed solution to distortions caused by massive government financed spending and borrowing is more of the same (e.g., "we need to increase college loans to make college more affordable" -- it's the loans that have made it less affordable, by bidding up tuitions.).

Anonymous said...

you make two babies now!

Anonymous said...

We can always look to Africa to provide us with manpower. Women in sub-saharan African conuntires have 5 to kids.

Anonymous said...

The reason white women do not have many children is because most white men are unappealing.

Anonymous said...

Douthat will do nothing to calm the fears of the right wing, - even with their stated desire for pro-growth strategies. They are concerned not just with the birth rate, but that the birth rate of the right population.

Mr. Santorum wants people who are married to have children, and have the parents then stay together. So far so good.

But here is what the right wing will say only behind closed doors (and maybe not anymore after Romney 47% disaster); i.e., in their opinion, the wrong races (minorities, immigrants) and the wrong socioeconomic strata (poor people) are having more children than they should, and the right races from the right strata are not.

International Jew said...

Douthat's message is delivered with more force and less awareness by Jordan Weissman right now at m.theatlantic.com.

Average Joe said...

We aren't facing some demographic crisis that simply must be corrected for. America is fine as is

Then why are whites declining as a percentage of the total population?

Peter Frost said...

Kurt,

We've had economic growth throughout the Western world for the past forty years, and the overall trend has been one of fertility decline.

A big problem is that economic growth hasn't translated into higher incomes for the average worker. The beneficiaries have been the top 10% and immigrant low-wage labor. Until recently, the latter used to see substantial increases in their incomes, in comparison to their countries of origin, and this explains the bizarre situation of many immigrants having higher fertility than in their countries of origin, even when such countries already have high fertility.

Anonymous said...

Douthat: "We have more babies than the competition."

...to which one might answer "who is 'we', Paleface?"

Gilbert P.

Anonymous said...

Anon @607

You made me expel my coffee through my nose, but the burn was worth the laugh.

Haven't we already looked to Africa for manpower? That didn't work out so well last time, for almost all concerned.

Anonymous said...

"Two cheers for the Obama Era fertility crisis.."

Obama has been better for conservatives in every way.

The only way another Republican ever gets elected president is if the Dems nomintate Hillary, who many people flat out hate. After that, the Republican party is 100% over. All they'll be doing in the meantime is out Democratting the left.

Maybe Obama will get us in some war and reinstate the draft.

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 6:08 PM said: The reason white women do not have many children is because most white men are unappealing.

Hunsdon, inquiringly: Whiskey, dear, did you forget to sign your post?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic that the fall-out from the sub-prime disaster, which was caused in large part by the spawn of high fertility but low wage immigrants has engendered a collapse in fertility, not amongst the lower orders, but amongst the highly productive who actually have to pay for it all.
Douthat seems to be pleading for more of the hair of the dog that bit him.

Anonymous said...

It's all but quality not quantity.

Anonymous said...

'Americans have fewer babies than the British'.

Not true.

Although they probably have fewer babies than Pakistanis resident in Britain.

Silver said...

Peter Frost,
A big problem is that economic growth hasn't translated into higher incomes for the average worker. The beneficiaries have been the top 10% and immigrant low-wage labor.

Maybe if you're talking about America. Median income has been rising fairly steadily in Australia, Britain and France the last ten, twenty and thirty years.

AverageJoe,
The reason why fertility rates will likely stay low in the United States is because Americans can't afford to have many children.

Well, think about this: few would deny that opportunities opened up and incomes rose for blacks during the 60s and 70s yet black fertility declined throughout this entire period. Maybe the link between income and fertility isn't as straightforward as you think.

Anonymous said...

I always like Hilary better than Obama. Obama seemed to have a chip on his shoulder like many blacks do, while Hilary didn't. The American People didn't follow the Rev Wright speeches in 2008 which would have caused him to lose to her in the primary. Also, she has more smarts than him.

Anonymous said...

"For the first time in recent memory, Americans are having fewer babies than the French or British."

In the UK, 30% of babies are born to a foreign-born mother, and about 25% of schoolchildren are ethnic minority.

France doesn't keep such stats, but there are always plenty of volunteers when the annual car-burning festivals (summer and New Year) break out.

I wouldn't take the UK as a healthy demography.

Maya said...

My husband says that I am not allowed to trick him into fatherhood until our debts are 80% paid off, until we move to a city and neighborhood where we could imagine staying and until we have sustainable income/health care as a couple, my current gator wrestling job not counting as sustainable. So no needles through condoms or pills down the toilet till then, I guess.

And Whiskey,

I thought you told me before that most biatches have a bastard by an alpha by the time they settle for that beta that the hate, hate, hate. Perhaps we should encourage more slutty behavior among the young white women, so they'd birth, at least, 3 kids from various alphas before settling . Your thoughts? Is promoting single motherhood for the young, white and educated an elegant solution, or what? You wouldn't need more alphas, then. Your friend Roissy could just travel from city to city, empregnating all those eager 20 somethings by tens of thousands. The girls would get those coveted 5 seconds of ubersexual alpha, and you'd get to see a generation born of your hero's seed. The only problem would be talking the dude into it. Someone as well adjusted, beautiful, intellectual and accomplished as he, obviously, has had so many young, gorgeous women throw themselves at him, that he might not see any personal rewards in the task. Would you try to convince him?

Anonymous said...

The reason why our fertility rate isn't 3-4 children per women is because we don't live in an agricultural economy anymore, where more children would be considered economic asset. You aren't going to find any examples of mostly urbanized nations with TFRs significantly higher than 2.0. White women have TFRs closer to 2.0 in countries where dual income families are the norm, and closer to 1.0 in countries where traditionalism holds that the man should be the sole provider. If the traditionalists here had their way, whites would have Italian birth rates, not Norwegian birthrates. If they want significantly higher fertility rates than what we currently have, they'll have to find some way to revert our civilization to an agrarian state, as what they want is simply not going to happen in a primarily urban setting.

Ray Sawhill said...

There were 1 billion humans alive in 1830. There are 7 billion alive now. Given that most of the world's population growth has happened in the last 180 years, why *wouldn't* we expect birth rates to start easing off? It isn't as though the species is in "barely managing to survive" mode any longer.

Anonymous said...

White women have TFRs closer to 2.0 in countries where dual income families are the norm, and closer to 1.0 in countries where traditionalism holds that the man should be the sole provider.

That's a crock of lies and masks how low the fertility rates are in Germany, Sweden and other such countries.

If the traditionalists here had their way, whites would have Italian birth rates, not Norwegian birthrates.

Norwegian birthrates are mostly keep up by immigrants. Oh, why don't those other countries love immigrantion?