The Patriot Post® · The Consequences of Falling Fertility Rates
“The first principle of society consists in the marriage tie, the next in children, the next in a family within one roof, where everything is in common. This society gives rise to the city, and is, as it were, the nursery of the commonwealth.” —Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman
A careful examination of cultural changes in America leads to the inescapable conclusion that we are engaged in a slowly unfolding, collective national suicide. The very values, principles, and social norms we once accepted as universal truths have given way to a tsunami of mass delusion in which a growing portion of society vehemently, even violently, rejects the standards of past generations.
The evidence is obvious to even the most obtuse person. We now live in a country where a large segment of the population believes sex is not biologically determined but rather an expression of inner feelings, while simultaneously claiming sexual orientation is genetic. We stifle economic growth to save the snail darter and delta smelt while slaughtering tens of millions of human babies in abortion clinics.
And we are even now eroding the foundation of the traditional, nuclear family that has been the bedrock of society since the dawn of mankind.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total fertility rate for American women fell below the replacement rate for the ninth straight year. The total fertility rate (TFR) is an estimate of the number of births per 1,000 women over their lifetimes, and replacement rate is the average number of births child-bearing women must have to maintain static population levels. Replacement rate is generally considered to be 2.1 births per woman and, according to the latest data, the TFR for the United States now stands at 1.75 births per woman.
It’s another checkpoint in a long-term decline in American fertility rates. Since 1971, American woman have only been above replacement rate twice — in 2006 and 2007. These rates also vary by race and region. White women are now having the least children, and Hispanic women the most. Birth rates are highest in the American Southeast and Midwest, and lowest in the District of Columbia.
Though America had long been the exception, with rising birth rates and increasing wealth, our decline now mimics historical trends among advanced nations. The richer a nation becomes, the fewer children families have on average. Additionally, there is a clear correlation between a nation’s religiosity and its birth rate; the more religious a nation is, the more children it has on average. As a nation becomes less religious, its birth rate declines. Higher immigration levels are also associated with higher birth rates, although by the third generation, immigrant birth rates are in line with native birth rates.
In the U.S. there are various factors that contribute to the declining birth rate. According to an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, in recent years there has been a significant decline of the number of American women in their 30s having children, meaning that Millennial women will likely have far fewer children than previous generations. Part of this is due to notable changes in marriage patterns, with Millennials waiting longer to get married than previous generations.
In addition to the progressive cultural shift that has placed a lower priority upon marriage (and even vilified it as an anachronistic relic of an oppressive patriarchal society), other barriers have impeded marriage and family creation, including prohibitive levels of student-loan debt, decreasing levels of home ownership due to rising costs, an extended adolescence as younger men and women spend longer in college, rising childcare costs resulting in part from a decline in the support of extended families, and a self-centered mindset that places personal desires (for responsibility-free living, travel, accumulation of wealth, etc.) well above the thought of sacrificing in order to create, raise, and provide for a family.
While married women are more likely to have children than unmarried women, there are fewer women getting married during their peak fertility years, with the average age at marriage increasing. So by the time women do get married and begin to have children, the length of time they can conceive, even with the assistance of reproductive technology, declines. Interestingly, women surveyed indicated a desire for more children, and were inhibited by the barriers mentioned previously.
This trend has dire long-term consequences for society. As society falls below replacement rates, the average age of the population increases while the number of younger people working to support the social infrastructure, and available and willing to care for the elderly, declines. With a declining population, the demand for housing lessens, causing home values (the largest asset owned by the average American) to drop. Social Security and Medicare continue to race toward insolvency as the ratio of contributing workers to beneficiaries plummets.
In summary, the abandonment of “traditional family values,” building block of civil society, has led to a dissolution of social cohesion, which in turn has led to myriad social problems.
Fortunately, these principles are eternal, and we can reverse this trend with effort — by restoring respect for marriage and family and elevating the nobility of self-sacrifice in the service of a greater good. Marriage and family require enormous sacrifice, patience, and delayed gratification, but the rewards, both personal and societal, are enormous.