NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Demography as Destiny: The Vital American Family

January 11, 2013

Birthrates in the United States are the lowest since the 1920s. The decline in family formation has serious implications for the economy and nation as a whole. While conservatives and liberals use this issue to drive a political wedge in the country, a serious discussion needs to take place in order to prevent the country from slipping into an existential crisis, says Joel Kotkin, executive editor of and a distinguished presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University.

  • Before the 2008 collapse, U.S. fertility rate was at 2.12.
  • Since then, the fertility rate dropped precipitously to 1.9 per woman.
  • By 2050, the ratio of workers to retirees will rise by 50 percent to about 35 retirees per 100 workers.
  • This poses a threat to the economy as fewer people can fill the demand for labor and pay into the government to help retired citizens.

The problem is present worldwide.

  • For example, by 2050, Germany and Singapore are predicted to have roughly 57 people over the age of 65 for every 100 workers.
  • In Japan the situation is particularly acute considering a third of Japanese women are not getting married or having children.
  • More troubling is the fact that even Japanese teenagers have shown an indifference to relationships or sex, posing a potential problem for the aging country.

One of the large reasons for declining birth rates revolves around the progressive movement taking hold in many developed nations. Many progressives celebrate being single and living in dense urban areas that discourage having children.

In addition to that, modern capitalism has also created conditions that discourage child-bearing. Individuals are forced to work long hours and are often forced to choose between a career and having a family. Low-wage workers are even more hard-pressed to have a family because of how expensive it can be. The poor economy has created depressed feelings about the future that make people reconsider marriage and childbirth.

Source: Joe Kotkin, "Demography as Destiny: The Vital American Family," New Geography, December 31, 2012.


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