Covid Baby Bust Has Governments Rattled

Not surprisingly, many young people have put off having children as a result of the Covid pandemic, and some even say they’ve decided not to have kids or to have fewer. Fear of going to see the doctor (you can’t do all that OB/GYN stuff during pregnancy via Zoom) and worries about finances will do that.

As some will no doubt point out, governments could have done a lot more to support incomes, so the child drought didn’t have to be as bad as it’s shaping up to be. And the drop in births isn’t limited to countries that are having trouble getting the disease tamed. China, which after its initial catastrophic outbreak has done an exemplary job of containing Covid, is also suffering a baby bust.

Of course, there’s a case to be made that fewer people in advanced economies is a good thing. But arrayed against that are all the “because groaf” forces. The two drivers of growth are demographic growth, as in more people, and productivity increases. National leaders are afraid of becoming the new Japan, having an aging population and falling in the “size of economy” pecking order, when Japan has weathered a financial system crisis and implosion of real estate prices with remarkable grace. And the demographic time bomb? The feared dependency ratio? More older Japanese work. Japanese even more so than Westerners prize attachment to communities and organizations, so it would probably suit those who are able to handle it to remain in the saddle or get a part-time job.

But the big point is that the Covid impact on child-bearing is widespread and looks set to continue for quite a while. The old solution in advanced economies for low birth rates was immigration. But that’s now become fraught. First is that neoliberalism-induced widening income disparity means those on the bottom are extremely insecure. Bringing more people in to them sure looks like a mechanism for keeping their crappy wages down. Second is advanced economies now eschew assimilation as if it were racist. But what did you expect, say, when Germany brought in Syrian refugees, who skewed male and young, and didn’t even arrange to teach them German? The notion that there’s a public sphere, where citizens hew to national norms versus a private sphere seems to have been lost (having said that, I don’t understand the fuss about headscarves; Grace Kelly wore them, so why should a religious intent matter?).

Now to the data. The countries worst afflicted include Italy, which was already suffering from a population contraction before a bad case of Covid. From the Wall Street Journal:

A year into the pandemic, early data and surveys point to a baby bust in many advanced economies from the U.S. to Europe to East Asia, often on top of existing downward trends in births.

A combination of health and economic crises is prompting many people to delay or abandon plans to have children. Demographers warn the dip is unlikely to be temporary, especially if the pandemic and its economic consequences drag on.

“All evidence points to a sharp decline in fertility rates and in the number of births across highly developed countries,” said Tomas Sobotka, a researcher at the Wittgenstein Center for Demography and Global Human Capital in Vienna. …

A survey carried out by Italian research group Osservatorio Giovani between late March and early April in Western Europe’s five largest countries—Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K.—found that over two-thirds of respondents who initially planned to have a child in 2020 decided to postpone or abandon plans to conceive over the next year.

In the U.S., a survey by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization, found that one-third of women polled in late April and early May wanted to delay childbearing or have fewer children because of the pandemic.

The Brookings Institution estimated in December that, as a result of the pandemic, 300,000 fewer babies would be born in the U.S. in 2021 compared with last year. That estimate is based on survey evidence and the historical experience that a one-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate reduces the birthrate by roughly 1%….

Historically, traumatic events such as pandemics, wars and economic crises have often resulted in fewer births. Some baby busts are short-lived and followed by rebounds. But the longer a crisis lasts, the higher the chances that potential births aren’t just postponed but never happen, say demographers.

No rebound followed the global financial crisis, for instance. The U.S. birthrate—after rising to its highest level in decades in 2007—plunged after the 2008 crisis and has declined gradually ever since.

The BBC also reported on the US birth decline, and explained that couples spending more time at home didn’t necessarily lead to more rutting:

Amid extensive school and day care closures, as well as limits on public gatherings, millions of women have been forced to balance supervising and teaching their children with work and other responsibilities.

Surveys revealed that many couples are delaying pregnancies, having sex less often and want fewer children because of the pandemic and its economic costs, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“When the labour market is weak, aggregate birth rates decline; when the labour market improves, birth rates improve,” wrote the authors of the Brookings Institute study, Melissa Kearney and Philip Levine.

And online searches for pregnancy-related terms were down last year, according to Google Trends data.

In comments at the Journal, one urologist in the US said that in his practice, vasectomies were way up.

As the Journal explains, Italy continues to be the sick man of Europe:

The worst-affected country so far appears to be Italy. The country has one of the world’s oldest populations and has struggled with declining birthrates for years, partly the consequence of a sclerotic economy that left young people behind. Then came Covid-19, which hit Italy early and hard.

Births in Italy plunged 21.6% in December from the previous year, according to first estimates by Italy’s statistical agency based on data from 15 major cities. That is a far bigger drop than during the first 10 months of 2020, when births declined 3.3% on average. Overall in 2020, nearly twice as many people died in Italy than were born there.

China is not in such hot shape:

The world’s most populous country was already on a path of declining births due to the lingering effects of its one-child policy, abolished in late 2015 after three decades.

Chinese couples can now have two children, but many who were undecided about having a first or second child postponed their plans in 2020. Surveys have found concerns ranging from uncertain incomes to fear of contracting the virus during maternity checkups…

China has yet to release nationwide 2020 population data but several local governments have reported double-digit-percentage declines in the number of births from 2019.

The conventional view is that capitalism depends on growth, and hence a contracting population is a big headwind. I’m not sure that view is correct. Finance-driven capitalism may be but that model isn’t working so well as it is. Capitalism is going to have to adapt to resource constraints and static or shrinking populations. If we had leaders as opposed to narcissists and looters in charge, it might be possible to manage a transition. We’re more likely to get rolling crises.

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  1. Halcyon

    Most people I speak to who are my age (mid-20s) are never planning on having children. This is for a combination of reasons – financial stability often a major factor, but also a general conviction that the world is going to get relentlessly worse throughout our lifetimes (climate, political and economic instability), and they “don’t want to bring a child into this world.”

    The only couple I do know who have kids are deeply religious types who got married very early and may not even “believe in” contraception. They have financial support from wealthy families who have bought them a house to live in, so it’s a little different.

    Of course, I imagine this is the kind of thing people change their tune on pretty rapidly when they hit their late 20s and early 30s, or whatever the Typical Childrearing Age becomes, so it’s hardly indicative of any broader trends, and I’m sure each generation has its own excuses, but this is just the useless anecdotal data I can provide.

    1. Larry

      I have a cousin now in her early thirties who just isn’t interested in the responsibility. She has large student debt burdens and experienced several months long bouts of unemployment between holding good jobs in marketing. She says it’s enough to worry about her own care, let alone trying to balance having kids.

      And I don’t blame her. In the US there is precious little support for childcare and it can be difficult to afford living on one income. When you’ve lived through two financial crises in a decade, what promise does the future hold beyond enjoying your own here and now?

      1. petal

        I would like to have a child before it’s too late, and was looking at area daycares yesterday. If I stay at my severely underpaid job(which would put being able to afford housing at risk), It would be $1000 per month at the institution’s daycare if a spot could even be gotten. This is for my lower income(folks making $40-45k). People making $170k+ would pay just over $2000 at the institution’s daycare. The other daycares are around $2000 a month, for one kid. Even people with two incomes are really strapped to pay for daycare. I have watched several other couples go through this. You need two salaries to afford even basic housing, and daycare takes the rest if not more. Doing it on one income, even if I got a better paying job, would still be near impossible. It’s cheaper and easier for the government to fling open the immigration gates than take care of its own citizens and figure out ways to help with daycare. They don’t want to. We’re just cogs to be ground up into powder in the mill, and there are plenty more in line wanting to get in to take our places. The daycare cost and availability problem is really holding people back from having kids.

        1. coboarts

          Drawing on ideas from many sources, I think at some point human families will be structured quite differently. For support and defense, perhaps developing in concentric rings: At the center are maternal women and developing children, cohabitating housing, sharing care, nurturing and preliminary educational responsibilities. The next ring the parental males, mothers of older children and the next level of care and rearing burdens shared. The next ring would be single women and accepted single males (I think that marriage might be replaced by temporary to permanent bonds of choice.). This ring would be where the inner community interacts with the larger world, shielding the inner rings. The next outer ring would be the ring that fully integrates into the ecology/economy that supports and defends the core family of the inner rings. This could start now. The example of how immigrant families survive in our quite hostile ecology/economy is instructive, although the traditional values and family structures they bring are not as outline above.

          1. Starry Gordon

            A friend of mine believed that certain kinds of architecture, not ordinarily observed, might lead to and support the kind of new social organization you hypothesize here. She, along with some others, had the skills and resources to physically realize some of the ideas, especially of the inner rings, and got some other people interested, who at least began to participate. However, as with the communes and cooperatives of the last half-century, many unpredicted conflicts between the participants developed, as well as the obvious ones between the outer world and the project. It seems that some kind of cultural development is also required. Until then we will mostly see such collective enterprises dependent upon gurus and the like.

        2. Dale

          Finding a rich husband really *is* a good strategy in the end, just like your grandmother said.

    2. Miami Mitch

      On the religious aspect, I can attest that, as told by a very devout Christian friend of mine, they do not fear for their children even is some calamity happens and will have at least four, because if they do die they will be in the glory of God’s heaven so that is OK. So the best thing for me to do, she said, was to invite god into my life and keep on using what he created.

      An interesting way to deal with death and fear for sure.

      1. Halcyon

        This is why religions have to make suicide a sin. Otherwise, who in their right mind would stick around?

        1. Jason

          This is an example of how religions often work in the interest of, and in concert with, nation-states and corporations.

          William Kotke includes it all under the umbrella of Empire. He thinks we’re in the midst of the final one. I concur.

      2. Astrid

        I would say this is primarily an issue with the big 3 monotheistic religions. Most religions have afterlives that aren’t necessarily better or worse, just different. So suicide is often considered an honorable way out of difficult circumstances in many traditions.

        Heaven has been used to justify much cruelty, oppression, and just plain stupidity.

      3. Sub-Boreal

        It would be concerning if an increasing proportion of total reproduction was occurring in religious fundamentalist subcultures.

        OTOH, since many young people instinctively rebel against the ideologies of their upbringing, this might not be such a big worry.

        1. UnhingedBecauseLucid

          That the ignorant are doing most of the breeding is concerning.
          The culture war made fundamentalism more of a thing than it’s ever been in the past IMHO.

          Fundamentalism blocks information and new knowledge; lack of information & knowledge distort reality.
          When facts don’t jive with a distorted parallel reality, people resort to indoctrination and bigotry.
          Fundamentalist indoctrination is a kind of diffuse WMD.
          A slow motion time bomb of sorts.

    3. Nick

      Have you noticed any changes to relationship formation or longevity in past year among mid 20s? I think you are right not to take young peoples’ professed views on children entirely at face value, but fewer people in a relationship may mean fewer people in a position to change their tune about kids. I’ve thought this might be the case with my younger siblings but I know them too well so tend to blame their idiosyncrasies over covid!

      1. Halcyon

        Hi Nick,

        I can’t say as I have… most people I know who are generally single have remained so, and most people in relationships have been in one. I don’t know of anyone who has either broken up or hooked up in the midst of the pandemic. But it’s fair to say that it would cause anyone to delay decisions of any kind (add to the fact that I’m in the UK where it’s been essentially illegal for us to meet up in person for much of the last year anyhow)

    1. occasional anonymous

      Anthropomorphizing the planet is basically agnotology. ‘Nature’ does not function as a singular lifeform; the planet does not have immune responses, etc.

      Looks like, just as with global warming, the cause is human activity, not nature.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Might just add a few general points here. Last year nobody knew if Coronavirus might not have a serious effect on pregnant women and their babies so it would be risky then to have one. As well, people were losing jobs by the tens of millions which meant that not only would you not have the money to support a new baby, by that because of an inability to pay rent, you may not have even a home to rise a baby in. So that is already three strikes against.

    One other point. Before 2020 as western birth rates fell, countries like the US, Australia, etc. would bring in immigrants to make up the difference here. But due to the present pandemic, that option has been shut down. Who will voluntarily accept tens of thousands of emigrants from another country that might be bringing in new strains of this virus? This factor will have an effect as well going forward, especially in workforces. If it gets really serious, local wages might even have to rise!

    1. Arakawa

      The Canadian government wants to bring in 1.2million immigrants over the next 3 years. That’s a target of 400,000 a year or about 100,000 more than they would let in during a normal year. To do this they are planning to relax the thresholds on their ‘points system’. They say they need to ‘catch up’ after 2020 which was a lousy year for immigration for painfully obvious reasons.

      I wonder how badly they will miss this year’s target.

      1. Keith Newman

        Indeed. Almost 100% of economic growth in Canada is through population increase. We have a vastly wealthy country and could easily provide a high standard of living if our population decreased. But the construction industry, banks, and everything related to consumption would decline so the easy and business friendly solution is perpetually high population growth. There is no way to counter this goal politically. Business wants it so pro-business parties are for it. If you say you want to decrease immigration for all the obvious reasons (environment, theft of highly trained professionals from poor countries – Canada specialises in that, decrease of wages) then for “progressives” you’re a racist.
        There is no doubt that part of the answer to environmental damage (climate change, species disappearance, habitat reduction, chemicals) is substantial population decrease in the rich countries. But our economic and political overlords will fight it. Expect subsidies for having children and who knows, even government subsidised childcare (that already exists in many places).

        1. Sub-Boreal

          I rather like living in a thinly populated part of the world. But there isn’t anyone in public life prepared to speak for this point of view.

        2. Altandmain

          Most people in Canada don’t want more immigration.

          That’s been true for years now.

          In another and more recent poll, Trudeau’s plan is still not that popular.

          Different polls with different results, but the point is, it’s not as popular as it sounds.

  3. Taurus

    A good analogy is Eastern Europe in the 90s. For the younger audience, the Berlin Wall fell in1989. The following decade was terrible, since the general population paid the price for the establishment of a home-grown plutocracy. Birth rates plummeted- here is an example of a fairly secular (pragmatic attitude to contraception) country –

    Note that when things stabilized, the birth rate never recovered to its pre 1989 level. 20 years later, the countryside is full of ghost towns. Part of it is the loss of industry but part of it is just not enough people.

    Looking at the numbers – Italy is in a pretty bad shape – only immigration will bail their bacon. Politically, this is a very fraught issue – we can see the anti-immigrant sentiment everywhere in the developed world.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    There were lots of jokes floating around this time last year about a wave of New Year babies as bored couples did what bored couples usually do to fill in time at home if they can’t go out. But clearly this didn’t happen – I assume a major factor was stress and uncertainty. This is unusual as historically people often reacted to times of uncertainty by having children (even in the midst of war), but I would guess that the far easier availability of birth control these days has reversed that pattern. But it will be interesting to see if the pattern holds for a few years – if it does, we really are in a new population paradigm.

    I think what we are seeing is the way Covid has not created new patterns, but has accelerated existing processes, or pushed others to their inflection point. Even before Covid, the birth rate in China was not responding to the lifting of the one-child policy as the government had expected – in reality, China is simply following the pattern in other developed Asian nations of a very rapid drop in birth rate as it climbed to higher middle income status. Only the adoption of much more family friendly work patterns would be likely to change that.

    I think what we need to be aware of is that once this starts feeding its way through the system, we will see more political pressure behind things like weakening pension rights in order to get people working longer to make up for the ‘missing’ young workers.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Maybe that is why countries like China are investing so much into robot & AI technology. The hope is that this will leverage the fewer workers to equal or greater production then using 20th century technology.

      1. Synoia

        One might use tech to cut the size of a workforce, but tech cannot replace Customers.

        As for Italy, Italy is destined to become an African Nation on the current trajectory.

        1. Geo

          Maybe they’ll design AI to have an empty emotional void that they can convince is best filled with buying stuff? Make the machines that build the stuff also desire having stuff? Capitalism saved!

          1. ChuckTurds

            Since our universe is likely a simulation, it seems that someone somewhere has already figured out how to make AI with this feature.

          2. Mikel

            The entire point of the fantasy about AI is that a robot won’t have desires to want more.
            They start “wanting” and they might ask for raises and better working conditions.

            1. Jason

              Someone here recently told the story of the auto industry CEO who said sarcastically to the union boss, “How are you going to get those robots to demand better pay and benefits?”

              To which the union boss replied, without a hint of sarcasm: “How are you going to get them to buy your cars?”

      2. Halcyon

        I never quite knew how much people bought into the hype around AI, but one take I have liked seeing is that hyping AI – independent of whether you will actually succeed in producing the type of advances you’re talking about – has the effect of disciplining the workforce; “accept awful pay and conditions or we’ll replace you with the machine”; even if that’s not actually viable (yet).

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I didn’t take the time to include this from the BBC. Should have:

      Divorce rates are increasing around the world, and relationship experts warn the pandemic-induced break-up curve may not have peaked yet….

      Their experiences are becoming increasingly common, with divorce applications and break-ups skyrocketing across the UK and around the world. Leading British law firm Stewarts logged a 122% increase in enquiries between July and October, compared with the same period last year. Charity Citizen’s Advice reported a spike in searches for online advice on ending a relationship. In the US, a major legal contract-creation site recently announced a 34% rise in sales of its basic divorce agreement, with newlyweds who’d got married in the previous five months making up 20% of sales. There’s been a similar pattern in China, which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns at the start of the pandemic. The same is true in Sweden, which, until recently, largely relied on voluntary guidelines to try and slow the spread of Covid-19.

      It’s old news that the pandemic is affecting many of our core relationships. But lawyers, therapists and academics are starting to get a clearer understanding of the multiple factors feeding into the Covid-19 break-up boom – and why it looks set to continue into 2021.

      At law-firm Stewarts, partner Carly Kinch describes the pandemic as “the perfect storm” for couples, with lockdowns and social distancing causing them to spend increased amounts of time together. This has, in many cases, acted as a catalyst for break-ups that may already have been on the cards, especially if previous separate routines had served to mask problems. “I don’t think that the reasons that people are divorcing have necessarily changed. You’ve always had the underlying current of ‘I’m unhappy with this or that at home’. But I think it has just brought the focus on domestic arrangements really into much more sharp focus than they would ordinarily be.”

      Kinch says her team wasn’t surprised by the surge in divorce applications after England’s first national lockdown ended, since break-ups usually spike after families spend longer together, like during school holidays or over Christmas. “I think lockdown is essentially like those prolonged periods, but with enormous added pressures,” she says. What’s been different is the significant increase in the number of women initiating divorces, with 76% of new cases coming from female clients, compared with 60% a year ago. She believes this trend ties in with the findings of numerous studies of working parents’ lives during Covid-19, which suggest that a disproportionate share of housework and childcare is still falling on women, even in heterosexual couples where the male partner also works from home. She adds, “I think some people went into lockdown thinking: ‘Oh, isn’t this going to be lovely! We’re going to spend lots of quality time together. And my partner, who’s normally in the city or commuting – they’ll be around and they’ll help more. And I think the reality for many has been a far cry from that.”

      1. PlutoniumKun

        By a coincidence, I’m just back from meeting a friend at court and going for a picnic lunch with a little bottle of prosecco, she was picking up her final divorce decree (it can’t be blamed on Covid, she and her husband broke up a couple of years ago). She was told that because of Covid restrictions its become more efficient, nobody wants to spend time in court, so everything is being processed very quickly.

        I recall reading a few months ago that there has been a major surge in divorces in China following Covid, many relationships didn’t last too much time in close proximity. I’d imagine this has been harder in some countries in Asia, where many people work such long hours couples rarely spend much time together until retirement.

        1. HotFlash

          I am not sure, but I think that most Chinese now live in apartments. If they are anything like Japanese apartments, they are very small. Three humans and two cats live in our small 2 story house, with small front and back yard, but at least we have some place to go and a bit of garden to putter in. Plus, two of us have had our own small biz for nearly 30 yrs so are used to living/working together in a small space and have coping mechanisms in place. But holy moley, if the three of us had to live in an apartment and couldn’t even go outside, or had small children to mind and/or school in addition to ‘work from home’ — I’m pretty sure there’d be fission in short order.

      2. cocomaan

        Usually during recessions, divorces fall as couples stay together as a hedge against risk.

        Looks like lockdown overcame economic precariousness and people went with breaking up the household instead.

    3. t

      I assume another major factor was women with children or in a multi-generational household who are dreaming of the day when they will be able to spend as much as three hours alone. Having people making demands on you from all sides, all day isn’t great for romance.

      I have one – one – male coworker who is occasionally interrupted by a child.

    4. Nick Bea

      Re: Older people working longer, that will exacerbate some problems for a while, no? Some of the lack of opportunity millenials and younger face is because older folks won’t leave well-paid jobs or sell their second homes. Seems to me there’s a possibility that for a substantial subset of the older folks, things will only get better.

  5. Steve K

    Forget tokens and credits. They are power to access goods and services. Nature is the ultimate provider of all the energy and materials that provide well-being. If the population of the planet was 1/4 of the present number (like in 1900), we would on average be 400% wealthier, and also healthier as pollution would shrink as did throughput.

    Paper contracts can be rewritten. Not so easily regenerated are pristine aquifers, topsoil, forests, fish stocks, pollinators, biodiversity, clean air…

    1. Tom Pfotzer


      I often wonder why people are concerned about population decline. If it’s done by choice, and its gradual, then it may be a very good thing.

      We don’t need 8 billion people to have a viable gene pool. U.S. core econ functions (utilities, ag, mining, mfg’g, transportation, construction) only uses about 33% of working population, and less in the years to come.

      Educational attainment seems to be inversely correlated with birthrate…the more you learn, the more you earn, the fewer children you tend to have.

      And of course to reiterate Steve K’s point: as human population levels decline it might actually help the planet heal itself (it better, because we humans certainly ain’t gonna do it).

      Somewhere I heard the population debate going in real-time, and one of the debaters asked the other:

      “Is it better to have 8 billion people on the planet for about 100 years followed by a crash (all dimensions), or would you rather have 2 billion people on the planet for thousands of years? Which one does more people more good?”

      1. RMO

        Whenever I hear of a declining birthrate being portrayed as a serious problem I just think that the Earth isn’t infinite – we’re going to have to stop population growth at some point, better sooner than later.

  6. Geo

    A close friend of almost two decades, mom of an eight year old, committed suicide back in November. I’d been dropping by regularly and helping her with her struggling business and daughter since the lockdowns began and the stresses just sent her on a downward spiral. She’d been dealing with her demons for years and the past year – it’s personal toll – pushed her over the edge. Fortunately the child’s father, another close friend, is an amazing human and a great father for her and they’re getting through a tough time as well as can be hoped for.

    Know a few others who’ve been dealing with serious contemplations of ending it. When so many aren’t sure whether they want to continue their own lives I can’t imagine what would motivate anyone to bring in a new life. This past year has shed a light on just how hopeless our future is for most. People who’ve never been overly political talk of how our system isn’t just apathetic but is openly hostile to anyone not rich. Even those not looking to exit life are seeking options for exiting America but that’s much easier said then done when you’re poor. A few have just packed up and live nomadic now.

    NC is great with its continued focus on “deaths of despair” and just from my anecdotal observations I’d imagine the birth rates are similarly impacted by despair.

    Personally, I had a vasectomy over a decade ago and was arguably the best decision I ever made. Some say it’ll be lonely when I’m old but who knows if I’ll make it that far anyway. Even if I did, I know I cannot provide any decent life for a kid as I can’t even provide one for myself. And, what future am I to prepare them for? Would I be wiser to teach them to code or to subsist on berries and wild game in the forest?

    These are just my personal observations and thoughts after reading this article of stats and real reporting. Not sure if it is even useful to share so sorry if it’s not. But the only thing that surprises me about the numbers above is that people are having kids at all. Wish I could believe in the future they envision.

    1. bojackhorsemeat

      It’s horrible that our society leaves anyone feeling like they couldn’t provide for themselves or a child. So much for all the “won’t somebody think of the children” rhetoric.

    2. MichaelSF

      Geo @ 6:28AM

      “Some say it’ll be lonely when I’m old”

      My grandmother tried that on me, “but Michael, who will take care of you when you are old?”. I told her that in my time as an SSA claims rep (late 1970s) I saw plenty of people bringing the aged parent/relative in, signing them up for SSA/SSI, and then leaving them to get on with the rest of their life.

      To be fair, I also saw people give indigent elderly strangers a home. The takeaway is that it is a crapshoot, you can’t count on people. Ideally, we’d be able to count on the people in the form of “the government” but that is looking more iffy with every passing day.

      I’ve never felt the desire for progeny so I too took steps to ensure they wouldn’t be an issue (and had to argue with medicos about whether I knew my own mind or not). Many people aren’t competent to care for a pet, much less a human child for a couple of decades. Children, like pets, should be in good homes with caring guardians. Limiting things to one child, or pet, for every 10-20 people might see them more appreciated, but the likelihood of something like that happening seems pretty low.

  7. Sound of the Suburbs

    Aging demographics are a problem throughout the developed world.
    Western leaders came up with lots of ideas to make the problem worse.

    1) Sky high housing costs
    2) Student loans
    3) Low wages and precarious part time jobs
    4) A minimum wage specified at an hourly rate that won’t pay a living wage in a part time job
    5) Both partners need to work to pay the bills

    Hardly anyone should have the money to be able to start a family now.
    It’s amazing what Western policymakers can do when they put their minds to it

    1. Aaron

      In Imperial Rome, Emperor Augustus passed a set of laws to promote marriage and childbirth. Some of the provisions were:
      1. Unmarried men were forbidden to attend public games and banquets.
      2. Unmarried men were also forced to sit in less desirable seats in the theatre.
      3. Women are given one year by the Lex Julia, later two years by the Lex Papia Poppaea, from the death of a husband to remarry before becoming subject to penalties. Women are given six months from a divorce to remarry. Women are given eighteen months from a repudiation to remarry. Eventually, this had to be changed to three years (Suetonius Augustus 34).
      4. Unmarried men (caelibes) are forbidden to receive inheritances and legacies. This disability begins for men at twenty-five years of age, and for women at twenty years of age. It ends for men at sixty years of age, and for women at fifty.
      5. Orbi (widowers) without children are deprived of one-half of a legacy or inheritance.
      6. The consul (of a pair of consuls) who has the larger number of children is to be considered the senior consul. If each has the same number, the one who is still married is considered senior. If both are married and each has the same number of children, only then is the elder in terms of chronology considered the senior (Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 2. 15).
      (This is like saying, “People with more children will be given preference in promotions in workplace)

      Augustus obviously went full Draco (the greek guy behind the word Draconian, not the Harry Potter character). These laws came into effect sometime before the birth of Jesus. It doesn’t seem to have helped Rome in any way. Enacting laws that force everyone to have children in the face of legal penalty and a threat of loss of wealth is unthinkable these days.

      Increasing income and decreasing cost of income for young people like you said, seems to be a good way.

      1. LowellHIghlander

        Your posting here, Aaron, has me wondering whether these laws enacted by Augustus might also have been prompted by the need for more legions (to control more of the empire’s territories). Thus, I also wonder what the Department of War is thinking with regard to the plummeting birth rates now: Where will future cannon fodder come from? In a world without conscription, I imagine that the rate of “volunteers” to the relevant age cohort must be quite small. And if that base is shrinking, who will populate the front lines and ships patrolling the entire world’s oceans?

        1. Massinissa

          Drones. Drone everything. Drone ships, drone planes, drone whatever you need. See the Clone Wars star wars movies.

          Hell, they might make a military version of this thing so that someone can do the job of a humanoid soldier ‘from home’.

          Put a tread on this, give it a gun, and have some video gamer control the damn thing ‘from home’.

          “ships patrolling the entire world’s oceans?”

          I was half joking about the former, but they ARE trying to make autonomous ships a thing.

          Heres a commercial civilian one already having been built

          Here’s plans for an autonomous missile boat (missiles controlled by something that isn’t the ai, like a drone. The ai guides the damn ship for them.)

          If they want autonomous missile boats, and drones controlled by a dude on another continent is already a thing, then they’ll use a mix of these kinds of things to fight WW3. Sorry if too many robotics links. They’re literally trying to have as many things either autonomous or remote operated as possible.

  8. No Party

    Speaking from personal experience, it’s tough to bring children into the world when you (as prospective parents) are economically insecure. My wife and I graduated college right after 9/11, and all of our career prospects evaporated overnight. We hadn’t met each other at that time in our lives, but we each separately put blinders on, moved to the big city, and tried to find the American Dream. After six years of slinging lattes and working other odd jobs at poverty wages, saddled with enormous debt (college, credit card), paying astronomic rent to live in shoeboxes, then came the GFC of ‘07 to knock us down a few more rungs on the ladder. Desperate, on the verge of bankruptcy, we both swallowed our pride and found work with one of the few industries flush with cash (defense), settled into an intern position at a starting base salary of ~$36k, met each other and joined forces to climb our way out of this miserable economic existence. The job forced us to swallow a big old pill of moral ambiguity each day, but we were so far removed from the daily drone strikes that it was easy to keep those blinders on through self-medication while we slowly chipped away at our debt. By the time we had arrived at steady economic ground, all attempts at pregnancy failed; waited too long, too stressed out by our PMC jobs, the lurking shame from what our lives had become bubbling over and flooding our daily thought. Now, despite our comfortable economic positions in the social hierarchy, anxiety is now the order of the day; confused about how we got here, angry at the time we’ve lost. Overwhelming sadness at how our lives didn’t turn out the way we thought they’d be; feeling hopeless that it’s too late to do anything about it.

    We’re not asking for anyone’s sympathy; we now have the benefit of economic security and each other’s love to get us through each day. But it is astounding how much you have to give up to climb (or even cling to) this slippery ladder of capitalism. If we’re this miserable in the PMC, I can’t imagine what the working class must feel. Matter of fact, these days it strikes me how much our interests more align to the working class than the vampire sociopaths of the PMC. Tired of putting on a mask each day and pretending everything is alright.

    My opinion, declining birth rates are a good thing for the environment on the whole, but in the current context are symptomatic of the malignant disease that had infected our political economy. How long before the state takes total control of reproduction rights to guarantee a steady stream of laborers to satisfy infinite growth?

    1. upstater

      Good thing you’re not looking for sympathy, because Biden sez “The younger generation now tells me how tough things are. Give me a break. No, no, I have no empathy for it.”

      Hey, Hunter did just fine, didn’t he?

    2. Carla

      @No Party: I am very moved by your life story, and was particularly struck by this: “these days it strikes me how much our interests more align to the working class than the vampire sociopaths of the PMC.”

      If you have not yet read “How Law Made Neoliberalism” in today’s Links, I commend it to you. It lifted my mood.

    3. Keith Newman

      A very moving story (as is the one about the suicide higher up). The world we live in has been deliberately engineered this way. It could be very different, much more hopeful and community-oriented but that does not maximise wealth and power for our overlords. Agree about the common interests of most PMC and the working class.
      Our distressing situation endures thanks to the immense power of propaganda – “failure” is your fault personally; Omigod, look over there, a new enemy led by “Hitler” – last year they were our friends but no matter; and my identity is everything and more worthy than yours.

    4. Patrick

      Some powerful stuff today. Thank you (and Geo above) for sharing.
      I’m reminded of the cathartic scene in Good Will Hunting- “it’s not your fault”.
      I especially liked your descriptive “the malignant disease that has infected our political economy”.
      All the best to you. And yes. Both you and Geo have me welledupinside. Were the world a better place. Amen.

    5. Jeremy Grimm

      I am not sure what area of defense you work in. I worked defense soothing my moral ambiguity by observing the waste, stupidity, and general ineffectiveness of all the efforts I supported. I also found some understanding of the soldiers I was supporting. They were mostly poor with few opportunities other than the military. The engagements they executed appalled me. Even so, I felt some comfort in helping to make sure my country’s cannon fodder had the best support our flawed defense industry could provide. In the end I came to view myself as little more than a conduit for pumping money into the coffers of my employers. With my ‘cut’ I paid rent and made it to retirement through dumb luck — just an ‘ordinary man’ performing my work to the best of my abilities.

    6. Tom Pfotzer

      No Party – thanks for telling your story, and telling it so eloquently. The part that hit home for me was the “lurking shame from what our lives had become”. Oh, my, you may not want sympathy, but you surely get empathy. In my opinion, that’s some of the roughest medicine a human can take.

      ==== separately, and now to the general readership…

      There are a lot of young people who are just now going into the wide end of that same funnel. We have got to find a way to help them.

  9. Mikel

    “The two drivers of growth are demographic growth, as in more people, and productivity increases…”
    Lack of children in the future isn’t the problem, it’s how people here and now are being treated that is the problem.

    When is somebody going to square the advanced automation hype with all this burning desire for more people? Why is that whenever the articles about “we need more babies appear” nobody seems to remember the constant barrage of articles and studies about the “The Great Automated Future”? You know, the one that allegedly won’t need as many workers for all this “productivity”? And if that is just some hype, why isn’t that challenged more vigorously? People read that stuff and what do you think it makes them think about the future?

    And, there’s already the debate made famous by the late David Graeber about what exactly a lot of workers are doing and how they feel about it. When is the concept of “bullsh – – jobs” going to be squared with the burning desire for more and more people and what is considered “productive”?

    Then, we haven’t even seen the outcome of what continued increase of “work from home” will do to all types of white-collar administrative work. Staying tuned to see how much of this becomes somebody “working from home” in a country with a cheaper cost of living and cheaper labor.

    The worker participation rate for working age adults is not looking great. Hasn’t been great for a while. When is that going to be increased for workers in this country before all the fretting over fewer babies?
    It’s going to take communities (vibrant, with stability) to take of children, the ill, and people as they age – not just parents who may or may not be spouses. Many times it is the elderly who take care of other elderly that may not be in great health. And it’s harder for communities across many economic types to stay vibrant, self-sustaining, etc in this rentier economy with its throwaway culture.

    When the economy is as financialized as the USA, the “economic growth” they are talking about is often people servicing debts of some kind. Or it’s growth from paying extortionary prices for necessary services.

    So are they just saying “we need more debt slaves” and now shocked that people aren’t having more children?

    And now, unlike in the past, people can compare their lives to others all over the world with the glance at a screen.

    Plenty of others will expound on the effects of climate change and resources…

    1. Michaelmas

      Mikel: So are they just saying “we need more debt slaves” and now shocked that people aren’t having more children?


      If money is created as credit — and it is — and every notional dollar of credit has an obverse side of debt — and it does — then for the U.S. to be the Richest Country In The World™ and have an elite with so many multibillionaires, there must be debt on the the other side of all those notional dollars the elite have created for themselves.

      Debt requires debtors.

  10. NT

    Paradoxically while an overall baby bust is definitely occurring, there may be a baby boom among the affluent in the United States, perhaps reflecting the theory of a K-shaped recovery.
    While this article is anecdotal and not my favorite source , it reflects my own observations. I live in an affluent area of Westchester County NY. When I went to my gynecologist in August and then in December of 2020, I was the only woman in the half-full waiting room who was not pregnant. I asked the gynecologist about it, who told me that she has never had so many pregnant patients before in her 23 years of practice. She added that the pregnant patients are all well-off, unlike her patients from Yonkers or Mount Vernon (two less-affluent communities).

    1. das monde

      No romance without finance… Especially when so fewer *men* earn good wages, heterosexual relations and babies become less viable.

      But if rich “patriarchal” families are having as many babies as ever, that is perhaps the norm for a primate species like ours.

  11. Sutter Cane

    It is hard for people to honestly talk about the decision to have or not have children. It can’t be as simple as “If you want to be a parent, have ’em, and if you don’t don’t.” People on either side feel they have to justify their decision, either to others or to themselves.

    I think the pandemic is giving more people an “out” to be able decline to have children without it being seen as a character flaw. Deciding not to have children would get you labeled as selfish or immature, but now you can point to the pandemic and impending climate change as evidence that actually, you are the mature one for making this decision.

  12. ZacP

    Thanks to all who have shared their sincere personal experiences. I am unsure how I fit into this conversation as I would not be choosing to have a child in any circumstance. However, I think with sadness about the many people I know around my age (30) who would be such good and happy parents if only they could afford the privilege…

    1. Felix_47

      I spent a few years in the military. All you have to do is go to a recruiting office and enlist. You don’t have to be a citizen or even a resident to enlist in the US military. The path from Africa to JFK to the recruiting offices in Times Square is well known. The military will arrange permanent residency, citizenship and even bring your family members over and they will be eligible for Tricare even.

      1. Massinissa

        Not true. The US military disqualifies tons of people, for health reasons or mental health reasons or other reasons that aren’t those. That’s not a bad thing. That’s just a thing. If you’re of sound health AND sound mind, then yes, enlistment is easy. I thought about joining the navy a few years back (see below) and researching online, I have like three mental health conditions that would disqualify me. Further, with growing obesity and declining mental health among teenagers for years, among other reasons, 71% of young people are ineligible to join the military.

        That’s not a bad thing or a good thing, its just a thing. So its not as if any person can just join the military. Hell as Americans get fatter and need more medicines to operate normally (I’m one of those people, mind you), it might become more than 71% ineligible from serving in the future. Oh and by ineligle, I mean serving in *any* of the five branches, including the coast guard (which, by the way, isn’t actually an easy job either)

        As for wanting to join the navy, it was for admittedly stupid reasons, honestly: I just really like ships, have all my life, and was feeling out of options. I’d be better off being an Able Seaman somewhere, honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that A: I can’t guarantee i’m mentally healthy enough to not jump off a damn civilian ship after some kind of particularly bad mood swing(Its probably for the best I couldn’t join the navy, to be honest!) and B. They’re already working on small autonomous ships. Yes, including military navy ships like missile boats, see post I made above earlier on this page. So at some point those things will be automated as much as possible. Shore jobs aren’t the only jobs being displaced by automation. Which might be a good thing on the civilian side since so few people want to work on US flagged ships any more. Most sailors on civilian ships are 40 or over due to so few young people wanting to work on (civilian) ships these days. Sorry for unrelated shipping-related monologue.

        1. Massinissa

          Well, not entirely true. People from foreign countries who meet the normal qualifications can enlist as well and get the benefits Felix implies. Sorry if I was talking about something tangential to Felix’s point. Hell, if less people in the US are eligible they could end up recruiting an even higher percent of people from foreign countries if necessary. Between that and automation, I highly doubt the military will have any particularly large problems in terms of recruitment even with 3/4 of young Americans ineligible to enlist

            1. Massinissa

              They did it because they had no choice. The population of the Roman Empire had been dwindling for literally two centuries. It was either pay barbarians to fight other barbarians or have the barbarians fight them. The Romans had previously made it so the children of every soldier had to also be a soldier, but that still hadn’t worked, so they were left with few soldiers, a constantly dwindling population, and lots of money, so it was either buy up all the barbarian soldiers in Europe or literally not have soldiers to fight against the barbarians they were paying other barbarians to fight. Quite frankly paying barbarians to kill other barbarians had worked for decades, somehow.

              People act as if the use of mercenaries by the Romans was something they could easily have avoided. 200 years of population decline means you start running out of soldiers.

        2. occasional anonymous

          Enlistment is easy IF you can pass the basic test thing they give you.

          I have it on the authority of relatives in the military that they saw plenty of people who were on their fourth, fifth, or sixth try of that test at the recruitment office.

  13. Kengferno

    This has been a great thread with many enlightening posts. Surprised that this article spurred on so many deep responses

  14. sam

    Very interesting discussion, the type of reporting at which NC excels. The focus on economic factors is certainly appropriate but social developments may also contribute and could change a short term reaction to a much longer term trend. Here are three that come to mind:
    1. Childbearing has traditionally been associated with family obligations as would-be grandparents, aunts and uncles pressure the young to reproduce and also offer financial, emotional and childcare assistance. Weakening family bonds, shrinking extended families, growing estrangement of parents and adult children may all be weakening that support structure for parenthood.
    2. Humans are fundamentally social so “everyone else is doing it” will always be an important motivator. In the past a childless young woman would be surrounded by mothers but the ratio of childless to childbearing may be in process of reversing. In the future a woman who does want children may face strong social disapproval among her circle of friends.
    3. Most cultures and religions throughout history have practiced enforced heterosexuality, maybe (like Octavian) with the intent to promote population growth. Reduced birthrate is often attributed to increased wealth but richer societies are also more tolerant of non-heterosexual lifestyles. This would include not just gay couples but also the growing acceptance among the young of a range of gender identifications and sexual behaviors that are biologically incompatible with reproduction.

  15. Kelly in Texas

    Well the USA has nothing to worry about. While our “native population” may not keep up with the enlistment fodder I think we’re going to be fine. Here’s from today’s paper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram):

    The Biden administration is preparing to convert its immigrant family detention centers in South Texas into Ellis Island-style rapid-processing hubs that will screen migrant parents and children with a goal of releasing them into the United States within 72 hours, according to Department of Homeland Security draft plans obtained by The Washington Post.
    If U.S. border officials continue to take in more than 500 family members per day, the change in use to the family detention centers “may not be sufficient to keep pace with apprehensions,” Hott warned in his email, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

    In recent weeks more than 300 unaccompanied minors per day have been taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after crossing from Mexico, according to the latest DHS figures, a more than fourfold increase since last fall. DHS officials expect the volume of teens and children in custody to reach record levels this spring if the trend continues, internal emails show.

  16. Ernie

    The replies posted above have each in their own way accurately described problems with growth or responses to those problems, all of which deserve praise and/or consideration, and I, for one, do not have an argument with the post or responses.

    I do want to add something to the conversation, though:
    1. There appears to be a correlation between the exponential growth of the population and the damage to the climate. Considering that for every human living there are carbon dioxide emissions from every non-biological activity they engage in, including but not limited to heating their homes, any sort of industrial and commercial activity in which they participate, cooking and so much more. In short, any form of activity creates CO2 emissions. And of course, then there are the biological emissions, for which I not aware of data.
    2. There appears to be a correlation between income inequality and the exponential growth of the population. Where 25 years ago a person with a fortune of a couple tens of billions of dollars was rare, we now have individuals with hundreds of billions, or in other words many multiples of what was possessed 25 years ago. The wealth of the wealthiest is increasing exponentially.
    3. There appears to be a correlation between the rise of supremacists, nationalists, populists and other “ists” that favor limiting freedom of the masses and expanding the control of them by the authoritarian “leaders” and the exponential growth of the population. The population has increased by 2.5 since 1960 – the time for one generation to go from their birth to seniority. Although the “ists” have always existed, it seems, at least to me, they were not the threat that they have become over the last 10-15 years. Although some of the religious persuasion might argue that everything will somehow be alright in the end, that there is plenty of room for everyone, I would argue that we are all starting to have to live too close to each other all the time, increasing individual stress and anxiety, and even making disease, like covid-19, easier to transmit than it might have been if the population had been significantly smaller.

    Yes, correlation is not causation, but it should inspire at least a discussion, and possibly investigation. We should at least be thinking and discussing the size of the population and discussing whether it is actually sustainable (there’s another word that has gone out of fashion recently).

    1. Michaelmas

      Ernie: There appears to be a correlation between income inequality … Where 25 years ago a person with a fortune of a couple tens of billions of dollars was rare, we now have individuals with hundreds of billions, or in other words many multiples of what was possessed 25 years ago. The wealth of the wealthiest is increasing exponentially.

      Yes. You understand.

    2. Jason

      What are you, a eugenicist? /sarc

      There have been very serious conversations about this going back a long time. To no avail.

      But don’t worry. We’re an infinitesimal part of a self-regulating system.

  17. JEHR

    It would be wonderful if governments refocused their priorities away from finance towards children. Then there would be family allowances for all families, free education for children, childcare, free healthcare and drugs for all and all the other things that children need in order to thrive: three meals a day, parents that can earn a decent living, parks that are environmentally friendly, jobs that make life liveable, and so on.

    The present goals of finance–to make a profit, increase the GDP, create perpetual growth, create billionaires–are not the most important things in life; in fact, they become less and less important because the majority of people cannot live by financialization alone.

    1. djrichard

      Our system needs to be biased towards constant growth. Otherwise depression – the currency float shrinks when there’s insufficient private debt issuance.

      If we don’t want this, we need to move away from the Federal Reserve system.

  18. Felix_47

    Having children implies a responsibility to raise them, feed them, provide health insurance, housing, school tuition etc. in conventional western societies. These responsibilities cannot be met in the current neoliberal system. Most people want a nice house with a garden, good schools, clean air etc. In much of the US these are not options for 90% of the population. Even a run down tract house in Riverside Ca. is pushing 750,000. The US is using migration from very poor countries to maintain the consumer base. These people are just happy to be in the US and have no expectations of a middle class lifestyle to US standards so the oligarchs are happy to have them. Less than half of children in one parent families even have a child support order. Only one third get the alloted child support. Child support is not helping the vast majority of children. The huge child support legal apparatus of judges, district attorneys, social workers, psychologist etc. are getting paid very well. One thing the government might do is initiate a national child support program and pay substantial amounts to mothers to raise their children and even fund quarters of social security for them. By allowing unlimited child bearing, unlike China, and de facto open immigration and not providing for support the US Government is basically a deadbeat dad to the children born here and the migrant kids that the USG and the oligarchs are encouraging to come. In fact, what would we think of a rich father not paying child support to his first wife, not providing health care to the kids, having a bunch of more kids with the second and going out and buying a new yacht for a few million bucks? Kind of like our politicians not having a child support policy that is well funded, not providing health care to the kids they already have and inviting a whole bunch of new kids in and then going out and buying a couple of aircraft carriers from the military industrial complex.

  19. Jeremy Grimm

    In links today we have “Disposable People” juxtaposed with this post about Government concern about the “Baby Bust”. In recent past there have been posts suggesting that many areas of the World may become uninhabitable as a result of rising oceans, shifting rains, and rising temperatures. Other posts, links, and notable comments flag strange consolidations of agriculture seemingly dedicated to assuring the fragility of long-term agricultural production and increasing the number of nations dependent on food imports so they can produce cash crops for export to the world Market.

    The world population in 1951, was 2,584,034,261 and in 2020, 7,794,798,739 souls. This represents exponential growth accruing at rates varying between 1.05% up to 2.09% per year. There are many indications we are rapidly approaching the current ability to feed and water our populations and the future portends declines in agriculture and the availability of potable fresh water.

    “The conventional view is that capitalism depends on growth, and hence a contracting population is a big headwind. I’m not sure that view is correct.”

    Neither am I. If there is truth in the conventional view that the present instantiation of capitalism depends on growth — whether hindered by a contracting population, or not, I am not sure the present instantiation of capitalism can long survive.

  20. Matthew G. Saroff

    There is a precedent on declining populations, and that is the period following the Black Death in Europe, where personal productivity and living standards for the bottom 99% of society skyrocketed.

    Basic economics, absent government meddling, which was tried following the Plague, and with things like open door immigration, shows that when labor is in short supply, more capital has to be spent for a unit of labor.

    If old age benefit taxes go up by 10%, and wages go up by 20%, everyone wins but Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Lloyd Blankfein, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Travis Kalanick.

    I can live with that.

    1. Massinissa

      In addition, remember that the population of the Roman empire decreased about 2% every ten years between 200 to 400 A.D. Rome had a declining population *for two entire centuries*. That’s part of why they had to start hiring ‘barbarians’ for their military, and part of why they got overrun by said barbarians after that. They had a dying population *for two centuries*.

      Well, to be fair, things got shittier and shittier for everyone in the empire for two centuries as well. That’s part of why it eventually collapsed to ‘barbarians’: what exactly was it even doing at that point? Providing a good life (or even life at all) for its citizens was something it had stopped doing generations ago before the visigoths started wrecking it.

    2. Mansoor H. Khan


      “and wages go up by 20%”

      If wages go up by 20% then revenues of companies owned by “eff Bezos, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Lloyd Blankfein, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Travis Kalanick” will go up substantially.

      This is not a zero-sum game.


      1. Matthew G. Saroff

        Yes, but the increase in revenue will largely go to the workers, meaning a reduction in inequality, and hence a loss of relative power for,”eff Bezos, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Lloyd Blankfein, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Travis Kalanick”

        1. Mansoor H. Khan

          Partially agree. Yes. Initially the profit margins MAY decrease.

          But in the long run it will spur even more automation. There will be intense motivation to outsource and automate.

          A better way to balance the equation in favor of the workers is a UBI. The more intense the automation and outsourcing the more $$$$ UBI can be.

          Of course, long term we need to get rid of gov privilege for banks and a debt based monetary system. If this is done then UBI can be even higher.


  21. Minh

    Men no longer see a benefit to marriage when a song like WAP is top of the charts. Just like how the state wants it to be so there shouldn’t be any surprise. I have zero sympathy for the investor class.

    1. Persephone

      I hope you’re not mistaking Cardi B and Meghan Thee Stallion for centuries of systemic patriarchal and institutional religious oppression of female sexuality. If you are trying to make the argument that “overtly sexual lyrics in a song that topped the charts for 4 weeks” (last year) caused a national decline in interest in marriage, a suitable substitute would be any male-written rock song of the last century.

  22. KLG

    Our children were born in 1984 and 1991. The older is mother of a toddler soon to have her third birthday. She and her husband have decided that one more child would put them into insolvency. Daycare is $1500 per week, albeit at a very good “school.” When she was that age, we paid about 5-8% of that at an independent local center where her primary caregiver was a pediatrician who graduated from medical school in Puerto Rico and did not practice in the States. Ditto for her younger brother’s day care, who has no plans for children. His significant other with an MSW feels the same. They might adopt. If not they will be content as aunt and uncle. These adults are well into the PMC, so far, for now. But they can see what the world offers them and those younger. They are not interested. And Joe Biden, without the sympathy, can go family blog himself.

  23. Kfish

    I’m an Australian woman in her late thirties, financially secure. There’s a $5000 baby bonus over here, but no amount of money would get me to have a kid. Why? Mostly because the massive workload of mothering in a nuclear family doesn’t appeal. Parents these days seem to be expected to constantly entertain their kids and shield them from all suffering, and if you don’t there’s a Greek chorus on Facebook waiting to shame you as a monster. Eight billion people is still four billion more than is sustainable. And frankly, if previous generations want me to reproduce to support their old age, they shouldn’t have driven up house prices, loaded me with student debt and casualised the workforce.

    1. skippy

      “And frankly, if previous generations want me to reproduce to support their old age, they shouldn’t have driven up house prices, loaded me with student debt and casualised the workforce.”

      ***They*** is not a logical proposition.

      By what agency did previous generations suggest to you that they wanted ***your*** support in old age.

      Housing prices are a reflection of dynamics which go back to Plaza, Orange County RE model, wages and productivity diverging w/ a war on wages whilst driving people into the casino and RE to make up the loss whilst investor REMBS demand drove credit issuance, et al.

      Student debt here in Australia was part of Howard’s agenda to privatize [cough demand driven] Universities and not some olds.

      Casualization the workforce was a cornerstone of neoliberalism, hence ascribing agency to the unwashed is a bit more than wobbly and lets the real miscreants off the hook.

      Now if you want to fat finger some rusted on LNP types one has to remember the old slogan of better economics mangers.

      Going to be an interesting decade here in Brisbane, signs everywhere I drive, especially light industrial and logistics w/a side of intercity RE …. sorta like Paris all over again[???]

  24. TomR

    The big factor – especially for men – might be a threat of imprisonment via family courts. It works by “imputing income” by the court higher than the real one a persoh has. This leads to inability to pay, which leads to prison time.
    Right now this mechanism is widely known, while in the past it took many by surprise. So now men know that children = risk of going to prison for nothing (not of your fault).

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