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June 5, 2020

Americans Aren’t Having Enough Babies

A worrying trend has continued and it will inevitably lead to problems down the road.

Considering the chaos and instability of American society during the first half of 2020 due to the coronavirus and now to widespread civil unrest, most of us aren’t focused on other real issues that will have a significant impact on our country’s long-term viability. One of these issues is the plummeting U.S. birth rate. It’s a problem that can’t be ignored if we want to remain a competitive civilization in the 21st century.

Without immigration, each woman needs to have 2.1 babies in order to maintain our current rates of population. The current birth rate in the United States is 1.7.

One of the reasons typically given as to why Millennials aren’t having children is that they simply don’t have the money. Given that the coronavirus shutdowns plunged America into a recession, money is indeed a real issue. However, as The Federalist’s Nicole Russell suggests, “Perhaps rather than $5 daily coffees, fancy restaurant brunches, and the newest iPhone, millennials could put some resources aside for something that lasts longer than a mimosa hangover or an Anthropologie shirt.”

But money isn’t the only problem, and the birth rate didn’t just start declining. Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press says, “The decline is the latest sign of a prolonged national ‘baby bust’ that’s been going on for more than a decade. And some experts believe the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy will suppress the numbers further.”

Stobbe adds, “There are a number of causes, but chief among them are shifting attitudes about motherhood: Many women and couples delay childbearing and have fewer kids once they start.”

The results of these new attitudes will be profound in many ways.

For one, we’ll need more immigrants to replace fewer workers and to sustain our generous and underfunded entitlement system. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the fabric of Western European countries ripped apart as a result of the clash of traditions, values, beliefs, and histories.

Another reason why Millennials are taking up what is called the “child-free” movement is the fear of losing freedom to be individuals. In a society obsessed with entertainment and adventure, why take on the burden of kids when you can backpack across Europe?

Young American women live in a society pushing them to have college degrees and careers rather than children. Career-oriented women who want children often feel pressured by employers to choose one or the other. For many young men, the idea of a lifelong commitment to a wife and child is no longer appealing, especially when their significant others don’t even want children.

There are many other reasons why these individualistic attitudes have developed, including the movement away from religion or a Hollywood culture that mocks family life, but we’re in the process of completing a transformation in our society over more than a century from large, extended families to nuclear families and now to the lack of families altogether.

A society made up of millions of individuals rather than families is not one that can survive for long. The love between parents and their children is a powerful, stabilizing force in a culture. One that can’t be replaced by being a “dog dad” or a “cat mom.”

Where we go from here is the big question.

We have “no governing norms of family life, no guiding values, no articulated ideals,” David Brooks suggests in The Atlantic. “On this most central issue, our shared culture often has nothing relevant to say — and so for decades things have been falling apart.”

Let’s hope that we rediscover the important, necessary role that children play in making our lives more selfless and making our society more prosperous.

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