U.S. Birthrate On The Decline Again – Should We Care?

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I have to admit, it’s interesting to see someone waxing poetic about the declining birthrate in this country. Not sure if I agree if it is something to be lamented, but the “overpopulation” argument is getting a little boring – even though it’s one I believe in.

It is one conservative man’s opinion I’m speaking of – but it is an interesting one. Ross Douthat, New York Times blogger and writer wrote a column today about America’s declining birthrates. Apparently, the birth rate “plunged with the stock market” in 2008 and hasn’t fully recovered. U.S. birthrates hit the lowest rate ever in 2011, with just 63 births per 1,000 women.

He attributes this decline to the usual suspects; an unstable economy, a decline in immigrant birthrates, and shifting family structures – or as he refers to it, “a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage.”

But he sums up with a view that I can’t really get behind. Douthat seems to think the main reason so many are retreating from child-rearing is because we are all a bunch of  decadent, lazy jerks. I’m paraphrasing a little:

The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

Hmm. I don’t know about this. I think moving away from the nuclear family structure is the opposite of stagnation. If we really did prefer “what already exists over what might be,” there would be no decline in birthrate at all, would there?

If the sacrifices that built our civilization were simply related to breeding future workers, it’s probably time that our idea of sacrifice shifts a little. The job market sucks and we are finally beginning to realize that we don’t have an endless supply of natural resources at our disposal. If deciding to put off having a family, or deciding to not breed at all isn’t thinking of the future over the present – I don’t know what is.

I guess I’m really not bored of the “overpopulation” argument after all.

(photo: Vivid Pixels/