The Death of Birth — Our Dismal Fertility Rates

Through Collapsed Fertility Rates, We Are Self-Exterminating

The Danger of Collapsed Fertility Rates in Scotland

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Folks in Scotland got a dose of reality recently when a study concluded that population aging and collapse portend serious socio-economic difficulties.

Media accounts, of the report, titled “Baby blues” and “Warning over ‘falling population’” may increase concerns over the future welfare of the country, but it’s difficult to know exactly what the government or populace can do to stave off a crisis.

Scotland’s Demography Research Programme, a two year study carried out by academics at five Scotland universities, states that within the next ten years the nation’s population may fall to its lowest level since the 1940s. It also warns that current trends pose “challenges” for the future. On average, the most desired family contains 2.48 children. In practice, however, the average family has only half this many kids.

Considering the gravity of the situation, it is curious that researchers and the press continue to minimize, if not utterly disregard, the role that men play in determining the number of children. The article “Baby blues” makes this bias apparent. Though fathers are mentioned in passing, the slant is made clear with statements such as “Less mysterious is what can be done to make having larger families a more attractive proposition to women.” A person would have to be comatose to be unaware of the growing outrage on the part of fathers who have been largely cut out of their children’s lives after divorce. The organization “Fathers for Justice,” formed in the United Kingdom, has done a great deal to raise awareness of this problem. As a result, an increasing number of men are steering clear of fatherhood and even marriage. A financial boost of a few hundred pounds, or even a few thousand, may not lead many women to have more children, if men are not interested.

The “Baby blues” article quotes SNP MSP Kenny Gibson as stating that stability rather than prosperity is key to increasing birth rates. “When the Scottish economy was driven by heavy industries, its birthrate was higher than the rest of the UK. People worked for the same company all their lives — they might not have been wealthy, but they felt secure. Today, the job market is completely different. People don’t tend to stay in the same job…” Once again, the elephant in the room is being ignored. In speaking of stability, one should consider the lack of stability in marriage today. When a man faces a roughly 50% chance of divorce, often followed by separation from his children, he may be far less likely to take on the job of fatherhood. This is obvious, and it is foolish for academic, media, and government pundits to ignore the fact.

It should also be noted that the UK provides a baby bond of £250 (about $500 US) to new mothers. Compare this to the stated cost of raising a child to the age of 21 — £186,000 (about $372,000 US). In other words, the baby bonus amounts to little more than one-tenth of one percent of the cost of raising a child. It is an unfortunate fact that children born to wealthy and well educated parents on average grow to be greater earners and tax payers. (Remember, one of the great threats of population aging is dire economic malaise. Far higher taxes will be needed to support the elderly.) A wealthy adult may be relatively unmoved by the offer of £250 to have a child. A poor woman, quite possibly single, who is wondering how she’s going to feed herself, may be more likely to take the bait. Perhaps it would make more sense to deny the bonus to the wealthy and to, instead, provide services such as further education and job training to poor adults, especially when they have kids.

Along this same line, one should note that greater female education directly correlates with reduced numbers of children. Again, this situation does not bode well, since children of less educated women will, on average, contribute less economically to the nation and, in many cases, will receive extensive subsidies during childhood and even as adults. In addition, poor children are more likely to be born to single women, adding to the plethora of social ills that accompany fatherlessness. This is not to say that the poor shouldn’t have children. It is to say, however, that we do ourselves no favors by exacerbating the already significant divide between low fertility rates of the well-educated wealthy and the relatively high fertility rates of the undereducated poor.

There can no longer be any question that advanced societies the world over are facing grave problems because of collapsed fertility rates. In trying to mitigate the growing crises, they need to reconsider payments to women to have children, especially the wealthy and the unmarried. They also need to accept the fact that men play a crucial role in determining the number of children.

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