May 23, 2006


The End of Motherhood?: But somehow the United States better mixes child rearing and the job market than do other advanced societies. (Robert J. Samuelson, 5/29/06, Newsweek)

Up to a point, we understand plunging fertility rates. The usual suspects: improved incomes; health and life expectancies (as more children survive, parents have fewer babies); growing urbanization (families need fewer children to work the fields); women's access to education and jobs; contraception; later and fewer marriages; more divorces. But our understanding is only partial, because there's one big exception to low fertility rates: the United States.

American fertility is roughly at the replacement rate, 2.1 children per woman. Nor does the U.S. rate merely reflect, as some think, a higher rate among Hispanic Americans. The fertility rate is 1.9 for non-Hispanic whites and about 2 for African-Americans, reports demographer Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. What explains the American exception? Eberstadt cites three differences with Europe and most other advanced countries: greater optimism, greater patriotism and stronger religious values. There's some supporting evidence. A survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago asked respondents in 33 countries to react to this statement: "I would rather be a citizen of [my country] than of any other." Among Americans, 75 percent "strongly" agreed; among Germans, the French and Spanish, comparable responses were 21 percent, 34 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Children are now usually a conscious choice—whereas they were once considered economic necessities or religious obligations. Somehow our society better mixes child rearing and jobs than other societies that provide greater child subsidies (government day care, family allowances). [...]

[B]y not having children, people are voting against the future...

The beauty is, if you're secular you don't care about the future, just yourself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 23, 2006 5:31 PM

No, some of them care about the *planet, and they are seriously vehement about that:

Posted by: Ted Welter at May 23, 2006 6:06 PM

Ted: I'm afraid to follow your link, but don't mistake modern-day paganism for secularism.

Posted by: b at May 23, 2006 6:10 PM

I wouldn't worry about it Ted - I have a feeling those Vhemt folks won't be around after a generation or so.

Posted by: Shelton at May 23, 2006 6:21 PM

And the other 25% of Americans polled, who did not respond with "USA" are:

A) Canadians who are down to pick up cigs, soft wood lumber (on the cheap, you know eh) and to catch their NHL Playoffs on the away games, or

B) Folks still bitter about losing two elections

Posted by: KRS at May 23, 2006 7:39 PM
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