US Birth Rate Hits New Low – A Nation of Singles
John Mauldin
December 21, 2012




Today’s OTB is not directly about the economy or investment, but rather about a key demographic shift that will certainly have a major effect on both. I have a somewhat different take on the shift than our author, my very-long-time friend Gary D. Halbert (founder of ProFutures and former business partner from the ’90s); and I will be writing about this next year. There is a significant transformation going on in my thinking about how the political world in the US (and, I suspect, much of Europe as well) impacts the economy.

The real eye-opener here is Gary’s reporting of the role of singles, rather than what is happening with the birth rate and fertility rate, although those are important too. As a surging percentage of US voters, singles are a game changer. They see the world differently in terms of their own personal security and the future – or at least that is how they vote.

To get a sense of how powerful the marriage effect is, not just for women but for men, too, look at the exit polls by marital status. Among non-married voters – people who are single and have never married, are living with a partner, or are divorced – Obama beat Romney 62-35. Among married voters Romney won the vote handily, 56-42.

OK, we all kind of knew that singles as a group favored Obama. But by that much? Singles are a new and rapidly rising part of the population that has not been well accounted for demographically, and that is the real import of what Gary shows us. I can tell you how many women will be eligible to vote in 2030, for instance, but there is nothing in the birth rate to predict the number of singles we’ll have. That is shifting, and in terms of voting patterns that shift (at least so far) is large.

This piece gives us quite a bit to think about as we contemplate how our entitlement programs and taxes will eventually settle out. The trends Gary describes are part and parcel of our national dysfunctionality. We want maximal healthcare and minimal taxes – at least on 98% of us. Healthcare benefits have to be paid for by someone; and that trade-off is going to be large in terms not just of taxes but also how capital formation, productivity, and employment are affected. It is hard to overstate the implications of how healthcare demographics will affect the economy.

As I write this note, the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and planning are going on all around me. My family will celebrate Christmas together on the 26th, so I can have all my seven kids and their families in one place under my roof.

I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year. I will be writing a short note for Thoughts from the Frontline this weekend, and then start to think about roasting a prime, rather than prime rates, for a few days.

Your almost ready for Christmas analyst,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box


by Gary D. Halbert

December 18, 2012

US Birth Rate Hits New Low – A Nation of Singles


1.  US Birth Rate Falls to Record Low in 2011

2.  Birth Rate Needed to Maintain Current Population

3.  A Nation of Singles – Implications For the Future

4.  How Did We Become a Nation of Singles?

5.  Conclusions – How Do We Turn the Trend Around?


One of the issues I have been focused on for the last several years has been the trend in demographics in the US and in developed countries in general. Our populations are getting older – we all know that. But the reasons why our populations are getting older are not widely understood by many Americans. Those reasons include the falling birth rate, the falling fertility rate, the falling marriage rate and the explosion in singles – people who never marry.

The US birth rate fell to a record low in 2011. The marriage rate is tumbling as well. And the number of single Americans is now at a record high. The implications of these developments are troubling, not only for the economy, but also for the investment markets and the continual expansion of the federal government.  Government debt has spiraled out of control in recent years, and the demographics suggest that this trend will continue as we care for an aging population.

Today, we will look at some new information on demographic trends in the US and in the West in general that should concern you – and all Americans for that matter. This will be a continuing theme in my E-Letters in the months and years ahead. Let’s get started.

US Birth Rate Falls to Record Low in 2011

The US birth rate plunged to a record low in recent years, with the decline being led by immigrant women hit hard by the recession, this according to a study released in late November by the Pew Research Center. A falling birth rate has major implications for the economy and our aging population, as I will discuss today.

The overall US birth rate decreased by 8% between 2007 and 2010, with a much bigger drop of 14% among foreign-born immigrant women. The overall birth rate is now at its lowest level since reliable records have been kept, falling to 63.2 births per 1,000 women who are of childbearing age in 2011. That is down from 122.7 births at the peak in 1957 during the Baby Boom.

The birth rate among foreign-born immigrant women, who have tended to have bigger families, has also been declining in recent decades, although more slowly, according to the Pew report. However, according to the report, the birth rate for immigrant women plunged from 2007 to 2011. One of the most dramatic drops was among Mexican immigrants – down 23%.

Side Note: Some people confuse the birth rate (number of births per 1,000 women) with the fertility rate. The fertility rate is the average number of children born to a woman during her lifetime.  The fertility rate needed to maintain the current US population is 2.1 children born to women of child-bearing age. According to multiple studies, the US fertility rate among women is now only 1.9 children and falling.

Most researchers attribute the drop in the birth rate in large part due to the severe recession in 2007-2009.The decline could have far-reaching implications for US economic and social policy. A continuing decrease could challenge long-held assumptions that previously rising birth rates among immigrants will help maintain the US population and create the taxpaying workforce needed to support the aging Baby-Boom generation.

The fall didn’t occur because there are fewer immigrant women of childbearing age, but because of a change in their behavior, the Pew report noted, citing data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the US Census Bureau. The Pew report concluded that “the economic downturn seems to play a pretty large role in the drop in the fertility rate.”

Although the declining US birth rate has not created the kind of stark imbalances found in graying countries such as Japan or Italy, it should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, said Roberto Suro, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California who studies trends in birth rates. He warned:

“We’ve been assuming that when the Baby-Boomer population gets most expensive [to support], that there are going to be [enough] immigrants and their children who are going to be paying into [programs for the elderly], but in the wake of what’s happened in the last five years, we have to reexamine those assumptions.”

Birth Rate Needed to Maintain Current Population

As noted above, the US birth rate has been declining slowly over the last several decades.  Today, the US fertility rate needed to maintain the current US population is 2.1 children per woman during her lifetime. Yet it now stands at only 1.9 and is falling, so we’re going backward.

The question is, why is the fertility rate falling faster in recent years, especially among immigrant women? As noted above, experts often point to the recession and financial crisis which unfolded in late 2007. The current falling fertility rate mirrors to some extent what has happened during other recessions. But in past recessions, the birth rate increased again once the economy recovered. So why is it not happening this time?

There are numerous possible answers. Let’s start with the plunge in birth rates among immigrants. Almost half of all immigrants to the United States are of Hispanic origin. But in recent years, immigration from Mexico, the biggest contributing country for many years, has dried up. For the first time since the Great Depression, the net migration from Mexico to the US has been zero.

Latino immigrants who have been here longer tend to adopt US attitudes and behavior, including having smaller families. Most experts agree that the decline in the birth rate among Mexican immigrants is probably so sharp because the rate was so high that there was more room for it to fall.

The birth rate decline among Latino women in recent years may also be related to enhanced access to birth control, emergency contraception alternatives and better sex education in schools, according to Kimberly Inez McGuire, a senior policy analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

Fertility rates play a role, too. Nearly one in five American women now forgo having children altogether and, without babies, many consider marriage to be less of a necessity. People’s attitudes have followed the fertility rate. The Pew Research Center frequently surveys Americans about their thoughts on what makes a successful marriage. Between the 1990 survey and the 2007 survey, there were big increases in the percentages of people who said that sharing political or religious beliefs was “important to a good marriage.”

In 2007, there was a 21% increase in people who said it was important for a marriage that the couple have “good housing.” Thirty-seven percent fewer people said that having children was important. The other indicator to decline in importance from 1990 to 2007 was faithfulness.

In Europe, Asia, and most advanced countries, people are running away from marriage, children, and family life at an amazing rate. For example, 30% of German women today say that they do not intend to have children. In Japan in 1960, 20% of women between 25 and 29 had never married; today the number is more than 60%. It is estimated that up to 25% of all East Asian women will remain single up to age 50, and up to a third will remain childless.

Whatever the reasons, the US birth rate has fallen below the level needed to keep our population steady, much less growing. This pattern is likely to continue lower, especially as immigrants adopt US cultural norms of fewer children and smaller families. This will have growing implications for the economy and the investment markets.

Are we on the path to become Japan and Europe with even more aged populations? Demographers far and wide say yes. I first alerted my readers to this trend in 2007 when I reprinted a chilling article entitled It’s the Demography Stupid.”  It is even more chilling now!

A Nation of Singles – Implications For the Future

What follows is a summary of a post-election demographic study that was sponsored by the Weekly Standard.

Americans have been wedded to marriage for a very long time. Between 1910 and 1970, the “ever-married rate” – that is, the percentage of people who marry at some point in their lives – went as high as 98.3% and never dipped below 92.8%. But beginning in 1970, the ever-married number began a gradual decline so that by 2000 it stood at only 88.6%.

Today, the numbers are even more striking according to the 2010 Census. Almost 24% of men, and 19% of women, between the ages of 35 and 44, have never been married. If we look at the people between 20 and 34 – the prime-childbearing years – the numbers are even more startling: 67% of men and 57% of women in this group have never been married. When you total it all up, over half of the voting-age population in America, and 40% of the people who actually showed up to vote this time around, are single.

You don’t hear nearly as much about the rise of single voters, despite the fact that they represent a much more significant trend. Only a few political analysts have emphasized how important “singletons” were to President Obama’s reelection. Properly understood, there is far less of a “gender gap” in American politics than people think. Yes, President Obama won “women” by 11 points (55 to 44 percent). But Mitt Romney won married women by the exact same margin.

To get a sense of how powerful the marriage effect is, not just for women but for men, too, look at the exit polls by marital status. Among non-married voters – people who are single and have never married, are living with a partner, or are divorced – Obama beat Romney 62-35. Among married voters Romney won the vote handily, 56-42.

Far more significant than the gender gap is the “marriage gap.” And what was made clear in the recent election was that the ranks of unmarried women and men are now at historic highs, and are still increasing. This marriage gap and its implications for our political, economic, and cultural future is not well understood.

What does this group look like? Geographically, they tend to live in cities. As urban density increases, marriage rates (and childbearing rates) fall in nearly a straight line. Politicos James Carville and Stanley Greenberg put together some very interesting data on singles. Of the 111 million single eligible voters, 53 million are women and 58 million are men. Only 5.7 million of these women are Hispanic and 9.7 million are African American. Nearly three-quarters of all single women are white.

Singles broke decisively for Obama, no surprise there. Though his margins with them were lower than they were in 2008, he still won them handily: Obama was +16 among single men and +36 with single women. But the real news wasn’t how singles broke – it was that their share of the total vote increased by a whopping 6 percentage points.

That 6 percentage point increase meant 7.6 million more single voters than in 2008. They provided Obama with a margin of 2.9 million votes, about two-thirds of his margin of victory. To put this in some perspective, the wave of Hispanic voters we’ve heard so much about increased its share of the total vote from 2008 to 2012 by only a single point to roughly 12.5 million voters. It makes you wonder how the Romney handlers missed that!

How Did We Become a Nation of Singles?

How did we get to an America where half of the adult population isn’t married and somewhere between 10% and 15% of the population don’t get married for the first time until they’re approaching retirement? Jonathan Last, who did the research and wrote the article for the Weekly Standard, explains this phenomenon as follows:

It’s a complicated story involving, among other factors, the rise of almost-universal higher education, the delay of marriage, urbanization, the invention of no-fault divorce, the legitimization of cohabitation, the increasing cost of raising children, and the creation of a government entitlement system to do for the elderly childless what grown children did for their parents through the millennia.

But all of these causes are particular. Looming beneath them are two deep shifts. The first is the waning of religion in American life. As Joel Kotkin notes in a recent report titled “The Rise of Post-Familialism,” one of the commonalities between all of the major world religions is that they elevate family and kinship to a central place in human existence. Secularism tends toward agnosticism about the family. This distinction has real-world consequences. Take any cohort of Americans—by race, income, education — and then sort them by religious belief. The more devout they are, the higher their rates of marriage and the more children they have.

The second shift is the dismantling of the iron triangle of sex, marriage, and childbearing. Beginning in roughly 1970, the mastery of contraception decoupled sex from babymaking. And with that link broken, the connections between sex and marriage — and finally between marriage and childrearing — were severed, too.

Where is this trend line headed? In a word, higher. There are no indicators to suggest when and where it will level off. Divorce rates have stabilized, but rates of cohabitation have continued to rise, leading many demographers to suspect that living together may be crowding out matrimony as a mode of family formation. And increasing levels of education continue to push the average age at first marriage higher.

The question, then, is whether America will continue following its glidepath to the destination the rest of the First World is already nearing. Most experts believe that it will. As the Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz put it, once a society begins veering away from marriage and childbearing, it becomes a “self-reinforcing mechanism” in which the cult of the individual holds greater and greater allure. Jonathan Last continues:

What then? Culturally speaking, it’s anybody’s guess. The more singletons we have, the more densely urban our living patterns are likely to be. Sociologist Eric Klinenberg believes that the masses of city-dwelling singles will sort themselves into “urban tribes,” based not on kinship, but rather on shared interests. The hipsters, the foodies, the dog people, and so on. Klinenberg teaches at NYU, so he would know. As a result, cities will gradually transform from centers of economic and cultural foment into what urban theorist Terry Nichols Clark calls “the city as entertainment machine.”

The urban tribes may be insipid, but they’re reasonably benign. Kotkin sees larger cultural problems down the road. “[A] society that is increasingly single and childless is likely to be more concerned with serving current needs than addressing the future,” he writes. We could tilt more into a “now” society, geared towards consuming or recreating today, as opposed to nurturing and sacrificing for tomorrow.

So what does this mean for the economy? The economic effects are similarly unclear. On the one hand, judging from the booming economic progress in highly single countries such as Singapore and Taiwan, singletons can work longer hours and move more easily for jobs. On that level a more single society could be good for the economy. But only for a period of time, as fewer babies are being born to replace them.

And there’s another downside to this scenario of falling marriage rates and more singles in the workforce. Demographers have found that without the responsibility of families to provide for, unmarried American males have historically tended to drop out of the labor force prior to their normal retirement age, thus exacerbating recessionary tendencies in the economy. Not good.

That’s because marriage, as an institution, is helpful to all involved. Survey after survey has shown that married people are happier, wealthier, and healthier than their single counterparts. All of the research suggests that having married parents dramatically improves the well-being of children, both in their youth and later as adults.

As demographer Robert George put it after the election, limited government “cannot be maintained where the marriage culture collapses and families fail to form or easily dissolve. Where these things happen, the health, education, and welfare functions of the family will have to be undertaken by someone, or some institution, and that will sooner or later be the government.”

Marriage is what made the West, and America in particular, so successful. George continues, “The two greatest institutions ever devised for lifting people out of poverty and enabling them to live in dignity are the [free] market economy and the institution of marriage. These institutions will, in the end, stand or fall together.”

Conclusions – How Do We Turn the Trend Around?

Over the last few decades, our culture has migrated toward tolerance. Tolerance of the decay of marriage, acceptance of divorce and cohabitation and even gay marriage in a growing number of states. This along with the trend toward having fewer children, for a variety of reasons, has put our nation at risk of a multi-decade decline in the population.

The US birth rate has always declined during periods of recession. But the birth rate has always climbed to new highs after recessions – except this time. The US birth rate has continued to decline to a record low since the recession of 2007-2009. This is alarming.

At the same time, the number of single Americans continues to climb to record highs. The rise in singles who do not reproduce is an equally troubling demographic. This suggests that the institution of marriage is in jeopardy for all the reasons discussed above.

Somehow, we need to re-instill the importance of marriage in our culture. And sooner rather than later. That may not be a panacea for a rising birth rate, but it is a place to start. Marriage is an institution which ought to be celebrated, nurtured, and defended because its health is integral to the success of our culture.

All of these issues noted today – the falling birth rate, fewer marriages, record number of singles, etc. – are very important developments for our society and cannot be adequately addressed in such a short space as this. There are also far-reaching implications for saving and investing as well. Thus, I will be writing more on these topics in the weeks and months to come.

Best holiday wishes,

Gary D. Halbert

Category: Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

17 Responses to “US Birth Rate Hits New Low – A Nation of Singles”

  1. CTB says:

    Why *should* we turn it around? Women can choose to focus on a career rather than having children. Maybe it’s a good thing that young men and women are choosing to live their lives as they see fit, rather than how society and institutions tell them.
    Also, what does gay marriage have to do with anything?

  2. Occidental says:

    Well, I read and re-read your long-ish article for reasons as to why us singles ought to jump on your bandwagon, marry up and breed but failed to find a concise and coherent argument for WHY. All I got was we singles ought to conform to your way of thinking, your assumed political stances and just assimilate! If you were trying to make an argument, cut to the chase and lay it out, link to the data for those that want to look it up.

  3. EIB says:

    “Survey after survey has shown that married people are happier, wealthier, and healthier than their single counterparts”

    For the 1000th time, correlation is not causation.

  4. EIB says:

    “The two greatest institutions ever devised for lifting people out of poverty and enabling them to live in dignity are the [free] market economy and the institution of marriage.

    How does marriage lift someone out of poverty? It’s a closed sum game. So, if it lifts one out of poverty, it does so on the back of the provider with more resources (ie: the man)

  5. aka_ces says:

    Resource depletion, environmental degradation, and global warming all correlate to increased population. A decline in the birthrate is one of few trends that counter these threats to human existence. Does the author consider these existential threats less significant than his sketchily articulated concerns ?

  6. aka_ces says:

    To the extent that the world economy is knowledge-based, it runs on education, and that correlates strongly to later marriage and fewer children — urbanism is not the only driver here. The continued expansion of the knowledge economy means more education, and thus lower and lower birthrates. If we don’t solve the existential threats mentioned in my previous entry here, then education becomes less important, and marriage might become more important.

  7. Iamthe50percent says:

    The marriage rate and birth rate always goes down during panics, depressions, and great recessions. Mass unemployment is not condusive to family formation.

  8. DiggidyDan says:

    l’enfer, c’est les autres

  9. aka_ces says:

    « « L’enfer c’est les autres » a été toujours mal compris. On a cru que je voulais dire par là que nos rapports avec les autres étaient toujours empoisonnés, que c’était toujours des rapports infernaux. Or, c’est tout autre chose que je veux dire. Je veux dire que si les rapports avec autrui sont tordus, viciés, alors l’autre ne peut être que l’enfer. Pourquoi ? Parce que les autres sont, au fond, ce qu’il y a de plus important en nous-mêmes, pour notre propre connaissance de nous-mêmes. Quand nous pensons sur nous, quand nous essayons de nous connaître, au fond nous usons des connaissances que les autres ont déjà sur nous, nous nous jugeons avec les moyens que les autres ont, nous ont donné, de nous juger. Quoi que je dise sur moi, toujours le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Quoi que je sente de moi, le jugement d’autrui entre dedans. Ce qui veut dire que, si mes rapports sont mauvais, je me mets dans la totale dépendance d’autrui et alors, en effet, je suis en enfer. Et il existe une quantité de gens dans le monde qui sont en enfer parce qu’ils dépendent trop du jugement d’autrui. Mais cela ne veut nullement dire qu’on ne puisse avoir d’autres rapports avec les autres, ça marque simplement l’importance capitale de tous les autres pour chacun de nous2. »

  10. DiggidyDan says:

    aka_I do not, in fact, speak french, however, i can agree with your assessment of self vs. others. I suffer from the discontented restless tremblings of misanthropic/altruistic thought spirals that make me both loathe and love the quirks of being human and relations in general.

    I feel the Sartre quote embodies this in our society, and our generation especially, in which our generation are constantly putting ourselves out on display for others and getting nothing in return for our accomplishment and effort. I would like to think that it used to be, you did good things and great work and had rapport with brethren. These days that does not exist, and it is getting worse. The disparity and resultant struggles for many make the camaraderie of life nonexistent. How can I relate to the overpaid narcissist running the show, and how can I become close to my underpaid counterpart with whom I am competing for bread on the table and an opportunity? These questions, I assume, despite la barrière de la langue, are universal, in both expression and epoch. Hell indeed, in living for others and getting nothing in return.

  11. aka_ces says:

    DD — You’re expressing an economic variation on the meaning that Sartre intended, not the frequent misunderstanding. I am in complete accord and sympathy with your sentiments and hope that you find more generous compatriots, and situations where the quote does not apply.

  12. rd says:

    North America has a huge advantage over the most of the rest of the world in that Canada and the United States are true melting pots of immigrants. Therefore, birth rate is much less important for North America than the rest of the world because we can import people and have them integrate into society relatively easily compared to most European, Asian and African countries. Places like Australia and some of South America have similar characteristics of being able to assimilate immigrants. As a result, the US and Canada are much less likely to be impacted by reduced birthrates than places like Japan and Germany.

    Marriage is a fairly universal concept and in many places is arranged to occur at a young age. I have never heard it argued that marriage prevents poverty in India, Afghanistan etc. although unmarried women in those countries are generally doomed to abysmal poverty unless they have been educated and can break free from the cultural norms.

    If productivity rises faster than the drop in the birth rate, it should allow for a fair degree of wealth accumulation by people that they can then use in the free market to pay for services in their old age. Government does not have to be the sole provider of those services if the family breaks down. The biggest issue there is protection of the people in their old age to make sure that they are not robbed blind, so the biggest single government role then will be effective regulation and enforcement.

    I suspect that birth rates rose after recessions because employment and income rose then. Even though corporations are now people, they don’t seem to have figured out how to have babies yet although Roberts and Scalia are probably working on that now. So additional corporate profits don’t seem to be having quite the same effect on increasing birthrate as having additional jobs and increasing worker pay – who would have thought that?. Perhaps the job creator class that have received most of the income and wealth increases over the past couple of decades should now also become a baby creation class?

  13. aka_ces says:

    rd – Your last observation may be an intent of the author, whether conscious or not. A valid point in the sense that that birthrates, perhaps marriage rates too, are relatively high (highest?) among those least prepared for the travails to follow. The way things have been going for decades, a birthrate increase among the “job creators” might not benefit the overall population, and might very well accelerate gentrification, benefitting rentiers rather than job creation. Perhaps an unarticulated interest of the author is eschatological, concerning an elect that will survive a coming apocalypse, and the rest who won’t. Never mind that the elect would be the primary cause of the apocalypse …

    From all these comments, it’s evident that the article is not particularly analytic nor thoughtful.

  14. victor says:

    This article IS very thoughtful. Most comments above are shockingly shortsighted, for I ask: how can a country continue to exist without (enough) children? Do I need to even explain this? Immigration, the right immigration may help North America, probably not enough though. Regarding the future, demographic trends are easy to extrapolate think Statistics 101. Eric Kaufmann has a great book out: “Shell the Religious Inherit the Earth?”, here’s a summary:

    “Based on a wealth of demographic studies, Kaufmann shows that the more religious people are, regardless of income, faith tradition or education, the more children they have. Religious countries have faster population growth than secular ones which is why immigrants are typically much more religious than their secular host societies. The cumulative effect of immigration and religious fertility will be to reverse the secularisation process in the West. Not only will the religious eventually triumph over the non-religious, but it is those who are the most extreme in their beliefs who have the largest families.

    Within Judaism, the Ultra-Orthodox may achieve majority status over their liberal counterparts by mid-century. Evangelical and neo-traditional Christians will eventually follow suit in the United States and Europe. Islamist Muslims have won the culture war in much of the Muslim world, and their success provides a glimpse of what awaits the Christian West and Israel.

    Drawing on extensive demographic research, and considering questions of multiculturalism and terrorism, Kaufmann examines the implications of the decline in liberal secularism as religious conservatism rises – and what this means for the future of western modernity.”

  15. favjr says:

    Well, I think its a little “late to the party” as far as this discussion is concerned. Nothing here is new or surprising. For a comprehensive discussion of the effects of aging societies in various countries read “Shock of Gray” (2010) by T. Fishman.

    But its a mistake to think that current trends require some kind of external governmental or other force to “turn it around” — or that “turning it around” is necessarily desirable in a democratic society. I would wager that birth rates in the U.S. will increase at the economy improves. The last time they were this low was in the Great Depression. The U.S. is also fortunate in that it can always import people, as it does already in areas like nursing and tech. Other countries are much more constrained as they seek to enforce racial or cultural purity, although they don’t like to call it that anymore. France just pays people to have more kids.

    But again, you are talking about a top-down government enforced solution if you want to declare some kind of marriage emergency and force people to be married or have more children. And it’s kind of hypocritical to pretend you are advocating otherwise.

  16. endorendil says:

    So far I’ve not found reason to doubt that reduced fertility boils down to three main social factors: education, secularisation and improvements in social mobility. Education offers people more insight in their own situation and how to improve it. Secularisation reduces the pressure to conform without first thinking things through. Realistic prospect of social mobility means that personal decisions can be expected to have positive consequences. All of this forces individuals to take an educated, active interest in their own futures, and for many this results in having children later, or not at all. The only other factors that I think may play a small factor are biological – there are some indications that humans are becoming less fertile in biologically measurable ways.

    Either way, this is good news! We should all be thankful that populations voluntarily opt to have a less-than-replacement birth rate. I am not blind to the fact that this leads to difficult adjustments in the economy, but a never-ending population explosion brings its own economic problems. At least we have the option of stabilizing our population without regular culs. Mote in God’s Eye, anyone?

  17. larry says:

    Reading in between the lines, apparently women should be at home… and a big FU to working class parents.

    What happens when “free markets” conflict with marriage and raising children? Scattering of extended families. No protections for parents taking time off for children, women’s careers take a huge hit when having children, no job security, etc. Look at stagnating median incomes vs. the costs of housing, healthcare, childcare, education.

    France has a higher birth rate than US – and very “family friendly” policies.