Where Have All the Children Gone?

Where have all the children gone? It's a problem that Mark Steyn first addressed in his book America Alone. Other than a piece Jonathan Last recently wrote for Weekly Standard, few if any reporters, pundits, politicians, or scholars seemed to take any interest. This is rather astonishing in so far as everything from our national security, economy, and future well-being depends on our ability to procreate. As Mark Steyn quipped, "...a people that won't multiply can't go forth or go anywhere. Those who do will shape the age we live in."

If one is to glimpse at the TFR (Total Fertility Rates, measured in children per female. One can get them via the CIA Fact Book, Wiki, and various UN publications) he would see that from a TFR of 4.78 in 1970, the global fertility rate fell to 2.56 in 2010. If one is to glance at individual nations, he will notice that some of the lowest rates are in Europe and the former USSR. Poland has a TFR of 1.26, Romania's is 1.20, and the Ukraine's is under 1.3. In Italy, Greece, Spain, France, the UK, Germany and Portugal the TFRs are below 1.5. Scandinavia as a whole fares a little better with TFR's just under 1.9 children per female. But, before these north European nations put themselves on their backs, it should be noted that Scandinavia has very large and fertile Islamic minority population. It is the immigrant populations that are reproducing, and not the hosts.

One will also notice that various Asian nations also have very low TFRs. Japan's is near what demographers call the lowest of the low of 1.1, while China has a TFR of 1.5. But China and Japan are not alone for Thailand and Vietnam have TFRs below 2.0. If one goes to Central and South America the numbers are better, but the trends are not.  Mexico had a TFR in 1970 of just below 6.9; today it is just over 2.2 children per female. As a matter of fact, this negative trend continues across Central and into much of South America. And while current TFRs in South America average above replacement rates, if the current trends continue they will soon fall below them.  

Even in Muslim nations the TFRs are falling. From Tunisia to Egypt the birthrates have fallen from over 6 children per female in 1970 to below 2.5 in 2010. The TFR for Tunisia in 2010 was only 1.86 children per female. Yes, Yemen, Afghanistan, as well as Somalia enjoy some of the highest birthrates in the world (generally above 6.0), but the trend in many East Asian nations is downward. Indonesia, for instance, has a TFR of only 2.19 compared to 5.6 in 1970. It is only in Africa where TFRs generally well are above replacement levels.

The fertility trends in the United States mirror global trends.  Jonathan Last pointed out that our fertility rates have been falling ever since our Founding.  From an average of over 7 children per female in  the late 18th Century to a nadir of less than 2.1 during the Great Depression, it was only the period 1945-1965 did our TFR's actually increase.  During the Baby Boom years the TFR reached a peak in 1960 (3.6 children per female).  But by 1980 our TFR sank to 1.8 . It currently stands at just over 2.0 (2.06) thanks in large part to immigration (both legal and illegal).  Last also makes the point that recent immigrants to the US adapt to their American hosts very quickly as far as fertility is concerned. There is little to fear that immigrant minorities as a group will reproduce themselves into a majority someday (a nativist fear that goes back over 100 years).  The just completed 2010 Census showed the slowest growth rates since the Great Depression.  Yes, the US's growth rate will continue to be positive, but the rate of positive change in our population has lost steam.  Only immigration allowed our population to increase.  It isn't inconceivable that our population could in fact contract this century if current trends are not reversed.

There are significant problems these plummeting birthrates create.  Economically the problems are obvious.  Governments in Europe and North America built elaborate and generous entitlement states since World War II.  But the inverted demographic pyramid of Europe and North America already are causing significant strains on the public purse.  The US alone has $100 trillion worth of unfunded public liabilities.  For Europe the problems are not just economic; growing Muslim populations in the UK, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and France foretell both social and political unrest, as Muslims will certainly continue to clash with its aging, gentrified host society.  As the number of native Europeans halves every 35 years, the proportion of Muslims will proportionally increase.  A decade ago, European experts laughed at the predictions of a future Eurabia.  They no longer laugh.

Another significant ramification of a rapidly aging society was brought to light with the earthquake/tsunami disaster that hit Japan on 11 March.  Lost in the drama of the nuclear power plant meltdowns was the horrific story of Harumi Wanatabe.  In an interview with reporters, Harumi described how her elderly parents were swept away by the tsunami as she desperately attempted to save them.  The tsunami hit her village only 30 minutes after the earthquake stopped.  Harumi's parents were too frail to move quickly.  One wonders how many of the victims of this tragedy will be the elderly.  Japan for decades has had some of the lowest fertility rates in the world.  The elderly now make up the fastest growing segment of its population.  Most of these elderly didn't have many children; and their children produced even fewer grandchildren.  Like Europe during the tragic heat wave of 2003 (in which the majority of the 35,000 victims were elderly), Japan is beginning to experience its demographic decline in a most painful way.

The United States is at a crossroads.  We are not yet in the position of Europe, China, and Japan.  But we are not that far behind.  As the statistics point out, we will not be able to rely on immigration much longer to grow our population.  Procreation of course is a very private matter, but it does have very public ramifications.  And history has shown that no amount of government largess encourages couples to procreate.  European nations offered very generous inducements for decades, but their fertility rates continue to drop.  Jonathon Last noted that fertility rates in many ways are determined by religious beliefs.  From this perspective the US, is more secular than is advertised. And unless things change quickly, we will suffer the same fate of Europe and Japan.  Postmodern secular nations are committing suicide.
Where have all the children gone? It's a problem that Mark Steyn first addressed in his book America Alone. Other than a piece Jonathan Last recently wrote for Weekly Standard, few if any reporters, pundits, politicians, or scholars seemed to take any interest. This is rather astonishing in so far as everything from our national security, economy, and future well-being depends on our ability to procreate. As Mark Steyn quipped, "...a people that won't multiply can't go forth or go anywhere. Those who do will shape the age we live in."

If one is to glimpse at the TFR (Total Fertility Rates, measured in children per female. One can get them via the CIA Fact Book, Wiki, and various UN publications) he would see that from a TFR of 4.78 in 1970, the global fertility rate fell to 2.56 in 2010. If one is to glance at individual nations, he will notice that some of the lowest rates are in Europe and the former USSR. Poland has a TFR of 1.26, Romania's is 1.20, and the Ukraine's is under 1.3. In Italy, Greece, Spain, France, the UK, Germany and Portugal the TFRs are below 1.5. Scandinavia as a whole fares a little better with TFR's just under 1.9 children per female. But, before these north European nations put themselves on their backs, it should be noted that Scandinavia has very large and fertile Islamic minority population. It is the immigrant populations that are reproducing, and not the hosts.

One will also notice that various Asian nations also have very low TFRs. Japan's is near what demographers call the lowest of the low of 1.1, while China has a TFR of 1.5. But China and Japan are not alone for Thailand and Vietnam have TFRs below 2.0. If one goes to Central and South America the numbers are better, but the trends are not.  Mexico had a TFR in 1970 of just below 6.9; today it is just over 2.2 children per female. As a matter of fact, this negative trend continues across Central and into much of South America. And while current TFRs in South America average above replacement rates, if the current trends continue they will soon fall below them.  

Even in Muslim nations the TFRs are falling. From Tunisia to Egypt the birthrates have fallen from over 6 children per female in 1970 to below 2.5 in 2010. The TFR for Tunisia in 2010 was only 1.86 children per female. Yes, Yemen, Afghanistan, as well as Somalia enjoy some of the highest birthrates in the world (generally above 6.0), but the trend in many East Asian nations is downward. Indonesia, for instance, has a TFR of only 2.19 compared to 5.6 in 1970. It is only in Africa where TFRs generally well are above replacement levels.

The fertility trends in the United States mirror global trends.  Jonathan Last pointed out that our fertility rates have been falling ever since our Founding.  From an average of over 7 children per female in  the late 18th Century to a nadir of less than 2.1 during the Great Depression, it was only the period 1945-1965 did our TFR's actually increase.  During the Baby Boom years the TFR reached a peak in 1960 (3.6 children per female).  But by 1980 our TFR sank to 1.8 . It currently stands at just over 2.0 (2.06) thanks in large part to immigration (both legal and illegal).  Last also makes the point that recent immigrants to the US adapt to their American hosts very quickly as far as fertility is concerned. There is little to fear that immigrant minorities as a group will reproduce themselves into a majority someday (a nativist fear that goes back over 100 years).  The just completed 2010 Census showed the slowest growth rates since the Great Depression.  Yes, the US's growth rate will continue to be positive, but the rate of positive change in our population has lost steam.  Only immigration allowed our population to increase.  It isn't inconceivable that our population could in fact contract this century if current trends are not reversed.

There are significant problems these plummeting birthrates create.  Economically the problems are obvious.  Governments in Europe and North America built elaborate and generous entitlement states since World War II.  But the inverted demographic pyramid of Europe and North America already are causing significant strains on the public purse.  The US alone has $100 trillion worth of unfunded public liabilities.  For Europe the problems are not just economic; growing Muslim populations in the UK, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and France foretell both social and political unrest, as Muslims will certainly continue to clash with its aging, gentrified host society.  As the number of native Europeans halves every 35 years, the proportion of Muslims will proportionally increase.  A decade ago, European experts laughed at the predictions of a future Eurabia.  They no longer laugh.

Another significant ramification of a rapidly aging society was brought to light with the earthquake/tsunami disaster that hit Japan on 11 March.  Lost in the drama of the nuclear power plant meltdowns was the horrific story of Harumi Wanatabe.  In an interview with reporters, Harumi described how her elderly parents were swept away by the tsunami as she desperately attempted to save them.  The tsunami hit her village only 30 minutes after the earthquake stopped.  Harumi's parents were too frail to move quickly.  One wonders how many of the victims of this tragedy will be the elderly.  Japan for decades has had some of the lowest fertility rates in the world.  The elderly now make up the fastest growing segment of its population.  Most of these elderly didn't have many children; and their children produced even fewer grandchildren.  Like Europe during the tragic heat wave of 2003 (in which the majority of the 35,000 victims were elderly), Japan is beginning to experience its demographic decline in a most painful way.

The United States is at a crossroads.  We are not yet in the position of Europe, China, and Japan.  But we are not that far behind.  As the statistics point out, we will not be able to rely on immigration much longer to grow our population.  Procreation of course is a very private matter, but it does have very public ramifications.  And history has shown that no amount of government largess encourages couples to procreate.  European nations offered very generous inducements for decades, but their fertility rates continue to drop.  Jonathon Last noted that fertility rates in many ways are determined by religious beliefs.  From this perspective the US, is more secular than is advertised. And unless things change quickly, we will suffer the same fate of Europe and Japan.  Postmodern secular nations are committing suicide.