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Industrialized Birth Dearth: America Unaffected

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Industrialized Birth Dearth: America Unaffected

Postby JTWood » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:20 pm

I stumbled on to this little gem just now and thought I'd share. I don't know how much I believe the conclusions, but the fact that there is a problem with declining birth rates in Europe, Japan, & Russia but not in the United States is interesting in and of itself.

Washington Post wrote:Behind The Birth Dearth

By Robert J. Samuelson
Wednesday, May 24, 2006; Page A23


Russian President Vladimir Putin has inadvertently spotlighted one of today's momentous mysteries: collapsing birthrates in industrialized countries. Putin proposed that Russia pay women to have children to remedy a "critical" population outlook. Actually, he might have said "desperate." In 2000 Russia's population totaled almost 147 million; Putin says it's declining by 700,000 a year. With plausible assumptions, the U.S. Census Bureau projects it at 111 million in 2050. The median age (half the population above, half below) would be almost 50, up from 38 now. Could this Russia maintain a strong economy, national optimism or a capable military?

Russia's case, though extreme, isn't isolated. There's no more population "explosion." In wealthier countries, motherhood is going out of style and plunging birthrates portend population loss. This is a hugely significant development, even if we don't fully understand the causes -- 30 years ago experts didn't predict it -- or the consequences. One way or another, the side effects will be massive for economics, politics and people's well-being. Indeed, they may already have started. Is it a coincidence that Germany and Italy, two countries on the edge of population decline, are so troubled?

A Party Without Principles
» Sebastian Mallaby If the Democrats win a measure of power next month, it's hard to see what they will do with it.

First, some facts. On average, women must have two children for a society to replace itself. The number of children per woman is called the "total fertility rate," or TFR. Here are the estimated 2005 TFRs for some major countries: Germany, 1.4; Greece, 1.3; Italy, 1.3; Japan, 1.4; Spain, 1.3; and Russia, 1.3. Low fertility rates don't instantly lead to population declines. They can be offset by immigration, longer life expectancies and greater numbers of young mothers. But ultimately low fertility rates suggest falling populations. The table below compares the 2005 populations (in millions) for four countries with the Census Bureau projections for 2050.

2005 2050

Germany 82.4 73.6

Italy 58.1 50.4

Japan 127.4 99.9

Spain 40.3 35.6

"The forthcoming and dramatic depopulation of Europe and Japan will cause many problems," writes Ben Wattenberg in "Fewer," his excellent book on the subject. "Populations will age, the customer base (for businesses) will shrink, there will be labor shortages, the tax base will decline, pensions will be cut, retirement ages will increase." All plausible. In 2000, one in six people in Germany and Japan were 65 or older; by 2050 the projections are for one in three. Of course, projections go wrong. But they could as easily underpredict population loss as overpredict.

Up to a point, we understand plunging fertility rates. Wattenberg reviews 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, 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 American society better mixes child rearing and jobs than do other societies that provide greater child subsidies (government day care, family allowances). Indeed, generous welfare states may discourage having children. A study by economists at the University of Minnesota found that high Social Security payments and payroll taxes are associated with low fertility rates. People may feel they don't need children to care for them in old age. Or high taxes and poor economies may deter young people from starting families.

No one knows. Among experts, there is much skepticism that Putin-like economic incentives alone will revive fertility rates. By not having children, people are voting against the future -- their countries' and perhaps their own. It is easy to imagine the sacrifices and disappointments of raising children. It is hard, try as people might, to imagine the intense joys and selfish pleasures. People ignore Adam Smith's keen insight: "The chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved."
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Postby slomo007 » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:35 pm

I have often wondered what the world was going to do about its overpopulation problem that is sure to be looming in the future if this continues. Apparently maybe it will level out on its own, but with the continuous advances in medicine and increasing life expectancies, I somehow doubt we've heard the end of this.

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Postby Coppermine » Mon Oct 02, 2006 3:12 pm

Seriously, how can this possibly be a bad thing? Overpopulation is something we should all be concerned about. Paying people to have more babies? Are you kidding me? How is this a problem?

This is also not brain surgery or some sort of big surprise; developing countries have higher birthrates than industrialized ones. There are a million different reasons; income/poverty, access to birth control, sexual education, education in general, etc,etc,etc. It doesn't even have anything to do with "motherhood going out of fashion." It's more like "My life won't suck nearly as much if I don't have 10 kids." In fact, the United States still has the highest birthrate of all industrial countries (last I heard anyway). I don't get "sick" or "upset" when I see someone with 5, 6, 9, 15 kids even... I just don't get it. Why? I don't care how much money you make, can't you provide much more for two children than you can for 6? What ever happened to fiscal responsibility? Anyone ever see that family, the Duggers' I believe, who have 16 children and counting? People have mixed feelings about the practice of turning your wife into nothing more than a "baby machine."

During the middle ages, the Earth basically hit "critical mass" and the population of Europe had grown to a point beyond what nature could provide. So what happened? Plague. Earth has an amazing way of balancing itself out. I wouldn't be surprised if a few years down the road, in the most overcrowded countries, some kind of mystery disease will wipe out millions of people. It's not God punishing people though... it's just equilibrium.

Another interesting study on a smaller scale is of Easter Island where the inhabitants basically stripped the land of all trees and resources. Of course they all just died out, but that's basically what happens when you keep having babies and carelessly take resources. Having 15 children in my opinion is irresponsible, not just as a parent but as an American. We have the freedom to have as many children as we want, but I don't think we should be abusing that freedom... particularly with how addicted we are to fossil fuels and material goods. Why not just write Wal-Mart a check for a few thousands dollars instead of having a bunch of kids and giving it to them the slow way?
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Postby Pogotheostrich » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:21 pm

Coppermine wrote:Seriously, how can this possibly be a bad thing? Overpopulation is something we should all be concerned about. Paying people to have more babies? Are you kidding me? How is this a problem?
The problem is a proud country that is going to lose political and economic power due to a lower population. They aren't thinking on a global/ everyone together basis. They are first and foremost concerned about thier country.
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Postby acsguitar » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:23 pm

Pogotheostrich wrote:
Coppermine wrote:Seriously, how can this possibly be a bad thing? Overpopulation is something we should all be concerned about. Paying people to have more babies? Are you kidding me? How is this a problem?
The problem is a proud country that is going to lose political and economic power due to a lower population. They aren't thinking on a global/ everyone together basis. They are first and foremost concerned about thier country.


God I'd hate to live in a country like that :-D
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Postby Coppermine » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:36 pm

acsguitar wrote:
Pogotheostrich wrote:
Coppermine wrote:Seriously, how can this possibly be a bad thing? Overpopulation is something we should all be concerned about. Paying people to have more babies? Are you kidding me? How is this a problem?
The problem is a proud country that is going to lose political and economic power due to a lower population. They aren't thinking on a global/ everyone together basis. They are first and foremost concerned about thier country.


God I'd hate to live in a country like that :-D


Hahahaha ;-D







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Postby Pogotheostrich » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:36 pm

acsguitar wrote:
Pogotheostrich wrote:
Coppermine wrote:Seriously, how can this possibly be a bad thing? Overpopulation is something we should all be concerned about. Paying people to have more babies? Are you kidding me? How is this a problem?
The problem is a proud country that is going to lose political and economic power due to a lower population. They aren't thinking on a global/ everyone together basis. They are first and foremost concerned about thier country.


God I'd hate to live in a country like that :-D

Find me one country that isn't like that?
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Postby JTWood » Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:21 pm

Pogotheostrich wrote:
acsguitar wrote:
Pogotheostrich wrote:
Coppermine wrote:Seriously, how can this possibly be a bad thing? Overpopulation is something we should all be concerned about. Paying people to have more babies? Are you kidding me? How is this a problem?
The problem is a proud country that is going to lose political and economic power due to a lower population. They aren't thinking on a global/ everyone together basis. They are first and foremost concerned about thier country.


God I'd hate to live in a country like that :-D

Find me one country that isn't like that?

Yep.
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Postby theclefe » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:34 am

Pogotheostrich wrote:
Coppermine wrote:Seriously, how can this possibly be a bad thing? Overpopulation is something we should all be concerned about. Paying people to have more babies? Are you kidding me? How is this a problem?
The problem is a proud country that is going to lose political and economic power due to a lower population. They aren't thinking on a global/ everyone together basis. They are first and foremost concerned about thier country.


I think the most surprising thing I saw was that there is only 147 million people in Russia's vast footprint, while a billion people are crammed into India. Granted the land and climate are different, less condusive for high populations, but it goes to show you how poorly distributed the world's resources are.
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Postby Madison » Tue Oct 03, 2006 10:13 am

theclefe wrote:it goes to show you how poorly distributed the world's resources are.


Or which countries reproduce at ridiculous rates without a care or thought in the world at what it really does.

At some point, it's got to stop. If you had 6 people living in an elevator, would you reproduce and bring a kid into the elevator too? Eventually some sort of reasonable thought has to go into reproduction.
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