Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Birth Dearth

In recent decades --- all over the world --- the number of children born to women has plummeted.

"Birth Dearth" (my coinage, I believe) has come into the language. It takes 2.1 cildren per woman on average to "replace" a society --- A Mommy, a Daddy and .1 of of a child to account for those children who don't reach their own age of reproduction. In the Less Developed Countries (LDC) the number is about 2.3 -2.4.

So many countries are now "below replacement" --- and many more are on the way. The rates proceed geometrically. In Greater Tokyo ,for example, the rate is now 0.99. They are scared witless.

So many countries may "go out of business" to use a term that demographers play around with.

That should allay the fears of the neo-Malthusian population alarmists, e.g. Paul Ehrlich, recently a guest on my Think Tank program.

But what does many fewer people mean? The late Julian Simon said it would mean fewer "Beethovens." It would also mean fewer people seeking cures for cancer and a dimishment of "the economy of scale."

To reverse it means families having 4-5 children.

Do you know many such?

I don't.


Anonymous LC said...

I do know of some--within my church community. You're right that it is becoming rare though.

Life is so fast-paced and expensive now that children seem difficult. I have heard of proposals for tax breaks to urge people to have children. However, it seems to me like the couples who chose not to have children are unlikely to be swayed by such incentives. Life here in DC, for example, is expensive. One of the most basic needs for raising a family--a place to live, large enough to fit all members of the family--is difficult to come by and very expensive. Paying for day care is expensive, while having only one parent work doesn't provide sufficient income to pay for a mortgage. Tax breaks are nice, but they cannot make the impasse between living in America's cities and providing for and raising children any easier.

People in my church community are an exception. They still have big clans because they WANT kids. There, having a family is valuable in and of itself. It doesn't feel that way to me in the rest of society though. How to you incentivize that kind of desire--desire for family, even when it requires a lot of sacrifice?

August 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point LC. The financial considerations of having children are maybe not the least consideration, but certainly secondary to a couple's desire to love and care for children.

Think about all the unmarried welfare mothers who have children while unmarried because the government has incentivized them to do so. If the government has to incentivize you to have children, I’m not sure that I want you to have them because chances are, the government (aka taxpayers like you and I) will have to incentivize you to feed, clothe, care for, and educate them. (This is probably not true for everyone, but let's assume it as a rule for argument's sake.) Now it sounds like these children are a product of the taxpayer (you and I) and not the family.

I’m sure I will have a sufficient number of children to love and provide for on my own, and they can love and care for me when I am older, I don’t need to worry about yours, too.

August 04, 2006  

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