The Right Opinion

Fewer Babies Born is Bad News for America

By Linda Chavez · Nov. 30, 2012

The old adage “be careful what you wish for” is an apt reminder in light of this week’s news that the U.S. birthrate has dropped to its lowest level on record. For years, population hysterics have tried to convince Americans to aim not just for zero population growth in the U.S. but its complete reversal.

Many of the groups pushing this view have also been in the forefront of the anti-immigration movement – NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Negative Population Growth (NPG). They don’t like immigrants – even legal ones – because immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants, traditionally have had higher birth rates than the native born. But the new report from the Pew Research Center suggests that even among Hispanic immigrants, birth rates are falling quickly. So why is this a problem?

Contrary to the agenda pushed by the aforementioned neo-Malthusian groups, a declining population can spell real economic trouble in the future. As populations in advanced countries age, more people become dependents rather than contributors to the economy. Especially in nations that provide a social safety net, such as Social Security and Medicare in the U.S., the ability to fund these programs depends on population growth among younger, working-age people.

Declining population means fewer tax dollars to pay for everything from Social Security to national defense. As the base of taxpayers shrinks, the government will either have to reduce benefits and spending on essential programs or take a larger share of workers' incomes to pay for them. But the latter approach – raising taxes – will only make the problem worse. If people get to keep less of the money they earn, productivity declines and revenues fall. It’s human nature.

Other countries with declining birthrates, most notably Japan, are paying the price already. Economic growth in these countries has slowed – Japan, once considered a threat to American economic dominance, has experienced two decades of slowed growth. It is no coincidence that Japan also has one of the world’s strictest immigration policies. They allow temporary workers but neither their integration nor the granting of citizenship to their children born on Japanese soil.

The U.S., on the other hand, traditionally has been generous in terms of immigration. The inflow of newcomers, who are younger, entering the workforce, and more likely to give birth to children than native-born Americans, has made our economy more dynamic and ensured a future funding source for programs for our aging, dependent, native-born population.

But the dismal economy of the last four years has discouraged immigrants. Mexicans, who for years have been the largest group of immigrants to the U.S., are no longer coming in vast numbers. Last year, net immigration from Mexico fell to zero for the first time since the Great Depression. And those immigrants already here are choosing to have far fewer children. The overall American birthrate fell by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010, but the birthrate among Mexican immigrant women fell by 23 percent.

The decision by immigrant women to have fewer children is not only rational during an economic downturn, it is a sign of their assimilation to American norms. They are emulating the decisions of American women to have smaller families to invest more in raising each child. The solution to the problem of declining birthrates is not to encourage the women already living here to have more babies, but to boost our population size by admitting more working-age, productive immigrants.

Without a continued influx of such immigrants, America will become poorer, not richer. Not only will millions of hard-working people be denied the opportunity to make their lives better, but Americans will lose out on the benefits of a growing economy.



alex torello in New Haven, CT said:

In 4 years, obama has solved the immigration problem. Nobody wants to move to a country in decline. Another 4 years and the wealthiest, most productive and most patriotic will be heading for the door.

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Dave Gorak in La Valle said:

Was Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson also "anti-immigrant?" Barbara Jordan, who chaired President Clinton's immigration reform commission?
Since when is advocating for sustainable population growth and protecting American jobs "anti-immigrant?" Does any sovereign nation have the right to determine both?

Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration
La Valle, WI

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Blind sheep have chosen decline, downsizing, and less energy production. The Constitution has been ignored and we are flooded with illegals.Infanticide kills off "Unwanted babies."

Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 6:08 AM

Mark Powell in Vermont said:

Although this article reflects the conventional wisdom, the conventional wisdom about U.S. population growth slowing down is completely wrong. Compare the UN projections for US growth to that of other developed nations. No other large democracy is expected to see an increase of over 50% in the size of their population in the next fifty years. My petition at We the People calls for stabilizing the U.S. population size at or below one-third of a billion people.
We have added over 60 million in the past two decades. That’s not slow growth, folks, that’s unprecedented growth, never before seen in the history of the developed world. Based on current policies, we will have close to a half billion people in the next fifty years. Is that the country you want your children to live in? Find out more about how the conventional wisdom has been shaped to create this flawed perception by watching my video at
Or go to to learn more.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Dave Gardner in Colorado Springs said:

Think about this: Over the long haul a shrinking population means government can shrink.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 9:44 AM