According to The Week, America’s birth rate is ‘now a national emergency’ – at 59.6 births per 1000 women, it’s the lowest ever recorded. The Week identifies a reduction in teen pregnancy as one of the drivers, as well as people choosing to marry later and have fewer children, but it leaves out just the general aging of the population. A significant percentage of the female population is past menopause, which will also clearly skew the numbers.
The low birth rate exacerbates tensions between the young and old, particularly when it comes to paying for entitlements, with some potentially devastating consequences:
The fewer young, productive people you have to pay for entitlements for old, unproductive people, the steeper the bill for the entire society becomes. This basic problem is strangling Europe’s economies. And while the United States is among the least bad of the bunch, it is still headed in the wrong direction.
Here’s the part I find fascinating, from a PEW survey, which generally tend to be pretty reliable:
Some 52% of American women (who gave numerical responses) said their ideal is two children, and an additional 44% said that three or more children is their ideal. (While 86% of women gave numerical responses to this question, 14% reported that the ideal family size was “as many as [someone] wants.”) But 40% of U.S. women nearing the end of their childbearing years have fewer children than their ideal.
Women are having fewer children than they actually want. What about men?
Some 87% of EU men who had a preference also reported that their own ideal family would include two or more children.
It’s likely quite reasonable to suspect American men have similar preferences, but neither EU nor American families are having the number of children they want. Why is that?
Among others things, delays in childbearing, which may be caused by increases in educational attainment, or by the lack of a suitable partner, may play a role. Starting childbearing at a later age means that there are fewer years for a woman to meet her fertility ideals, plus it increases the risk of age-related infertility.
Then there are direct economic factors, which are enough to give any potential parent pause. While many European countries offer more financial assistance via parental leave and other subsidies for parents than in the U.S., it’s still the case that raising kids is expensive. In both places, birth rates appear linked to economic well-being, with higher fertility in economic good times, and lower fertility in recessions.
Let’s take these one at a time. Delays in child-bearing caused by educational attainment. That would be mostly women, acquiring university degrees in useless subjects that leave them saddled with debt and no real prospects of employment outside of government feminist projects, which generally involve sorting things alphabetically and answering the phone. Robert Stacey McCain observes that increasing the educational opportunities for women lowers birth rates universally, and this is obviously not a bad thing, in and of itself.
What drops the birthrate universally is raising the status of women. Very specifically, the action with the greatest impact is teaching a girl to read. When women and girls have even that tiny bit of power over their lives, they choose to have fewer children. . . .
McCain is quoting an eco-feminist, so these are not his words. I dislike the way the argument is framed here as if powerless women are breeding machines bravely resisting the mean men treating them like animals. In all likelihood, women choose to have fewer children because that increases the odds of those children surviving to adulthood. Women don’t hate or resent children. On the contrary, they love children and wish with their entire souls for their children to survive, as do men.
Feminists? Not so much.
“Only when we recognize that ‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’ are made-up categories, invented to control human beings and violently imposed, can we truly understand the nature of sexism. . . .
“Questioning gender . . . is an essential part of the feminism that has sustained me through two decades of personal and political struggle.”
— Laurie Penny, “How to Be a Genderqueer Feminist.”
“I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding . . . time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. . . . Nothing will make me want a baby. . . . This is why, if my birth control fails, I am totally having an abortion.”
— Amanda Marcotte, March 2014
Women delaying child-bearing to get an education is not necessarily a problem, but it can be, if women buy into the feminist idea that babies are horrible, and children aren’t necessary.
Let’s consider ‘lack of a suitable partner.’ It’s unclear who can’t find the suitable partners here: men or women? For many men, women have become toxic, and men are rejecting them en masse. For many women, it’s impossible to find the alpha male rich dude with the beta male compliance she thinks she wants (she doesn’t want it), and women are simply miserable.
I think we can rest that one squarely at the feet of feminism. No one has done more to harm gender relations than feminism. It’s just pure poison.
The next claim is that the costs of raising children are high, and this reduces fertility. Maybe, although countries with huge entitlements for parents, including free health care, day care, and preschool don’t have fertility rates any higher than the US. Indeed, many of them are lower than the US.
So what is the real reason the birth rates are so low?
The payouts for women are directed towards having a small number of children; indeed, a smaller number of children than either men or women consider ideal.
The best way to permanently secure access to a man’s resources, regardless of the quality of the relationship with that man, is to have his child. If the woman is not married to the man, then she has an incentive to make certain the man in question is the biological father of the child. If a woman is legally married to the man whose resources she wishes to acquire, whether he fathers the child biologically is increasingly irrelevant. In some countries, it is illegal to test for paternity, and many medical researchers consider it unethical to inform men if they are raising children to whom they are not biologically related.
Having one child secures access to resources. Having more than one only marginally increases the resources to which a woman is entitled through family law, but increases her expenses in the event of relationship failure. She gets the house no matter how many children she has. Two children are obviously more expensive to feed and raise and support than one – having that second child reduces the amount of money she has available for her own use, so the incentives align to make certain women keep their fertility under 2.0.
Which is exactly what has happened in countries where family law discriminates against men. Which would be every single country in the West.
How to change the incentives?
Pay men to have children, and that money remains their money no matter what. This proposal has been floated for women, and in Canada, child tax benefits and subsidies are always paid to mothers no matter who has custody of the children or is the primary caregiver.
Think about how that changes incentives. Let’s say the government paid a sum, say $1000 for the birth of one child. That’s hardly a huge sum. Gold diggers are still incentivized to have one child. Increase the amount for the second child to $5 000. Still not earth-shattering, but invested at Standard & Poor 500 compound rates (8.5%), by the time the child reaches 18, that $5000 is worth almost $22 000. Pay $10 000 for the 3rd child and $25 000 for the 4th.
Pay that sum to the fathers, and protect that money from mothers. They cannot have it.
Now all of a sudden ideal fertility for both and women aligns with stable, lasting marriages. Women are not incentivized to fleece men of resources related to children because they can’t. And children are protected from having the family wealth destroyed by mothers who divorce for frivolous, spurious reasons. The incentives for women are to remain married to the fathers of their children to best serve the needs of the children, which is what most women will do if alternatives are taken off the table. Reforming family courts with corrupt judges and lawyers who have every incentive to make divorce and custody disputes as contentious as possible is going to take a significant amount of time and effort.
Switching all state benefits to fathers, and creating new benefits to encourage men to have children, while incentivizing lasting marriages?
That seems like an easy fix.
Pay men to do a job; you will generally get a job well done.
Lots of love,