No American babies, no greatness

How can America be great in the future with fewer babies every year?  In the long term, no way, José.  The average number of kids per U.S. woman has dropped from 2.12 in 2007 to 1.71 in 2019, the lowest ever.  In the case of whites, it's 1.61.  This baby deficit continues to grow, and with it, America's greatness potential shrinks.  The U.S. share of world births is one third less than in 1960.  This looks good only compared to Europe, where the decline is one half less.

Immigrants haven't provided a sufficient solution to the social undermining that entails too-low birth rates in any developed nation, even in the United States, a nation that still has worldwide comparative advantages to attract high-skilled workers from other countries, with its buoyant economy, high-tech industries, limited welfare state, and powerful cultural draw.

Fewer children have many consequences.  Accelerated social aging is one of them.  Half of Americans in 2020 were 38 years old or younger, a median age that is 10 years higher than in 1970.  Two factors account for this aging: fewer children and a longer life expectancy.  By far, the first of the two is the more important contributor.  Aged societies, non-dynamic by essence, face a terrible dilemma: either they transfer an increasing share of wealth created by a shrinking working population to the elderly, or the growing ranks of pensioners are poorer and with deteriorating health care.  Fewer children also contribute to another problem: loneliness.  Fifty years ago, 5% of Americans lived alone.  Now, 11% do.

Internationally, a shrinking demographic weight endangers America's leadership.  In 1900, Europe (including Russia) had 25% of the world population; now that that is less than 10%, it is an increasingly marginal geopolitical player.  China has more than four times as many working-age people as the United States.  Once Chinese productivity per person becomes similar to the U.S. level, as the Asian giant becomes a fully developed country (and this could take just 15 to 20 more years), America's GDP will be a dwarf compared to China's: circa one fourth as large.  The U.S. can contain China if it weaves and maintains strong global alliances, and through continuously shortening of the ratio of Chinese babies to America babies in the long term.  This is a relevant reason for the USA to try to boost natality at home: to make the demographic gap with China less overwhelming.

Republicans and Democrats should join together to foster a higher U.S. natality rate.  Unfortunately, neither of them includes the recovery of higher birth rates as a key national goal in their electoral programs.

This absence is easier to understand for Democrats, generally supportive of foreign immigration and multiculturalism.  Moreover, most immigrants going to the U.S. are Hispanic or Asian, and once they can vote, they prefer the Democrats by a substantial margin.

In the case of Republicans, it is harder to understand why they don't make the need of more births a major permanent argument, in line with promising a greater America and positioning themselves as pro-family and pro-life.  In the top 10 states by number of children per woman, Republicans generally win every presidential election in 9 to 10 of them, but their core constituency (non-Hispanic whites) has the lowest birth rate of all races in the USA except Asian-Americans.  And the n-H white share of U.S. babies in 2019 was 51%, down from 65% thirty years ago.

In turn, Democrats get more votes in nearly all the 10 least fertile states, while always winning in the two most fertile ethnicities/races: Hispanics and blacks, who delivered together 39% of all U.S. babies in 2019, up from 29% in 1989.  Moreover, non-Hispanic whites are on a clear decline with more deaths than births since 2016, a gap that grows every year, as shown by CDC vital statistics, while Hispanics and blacks are on the rise.  Hence, Republicans would be doomed in the long term if preferences by race/ethnicity of voters remain the same.

One thing is sure: no matter who wins in November, America's future will be more gray than great if births don't soon rebound.  There is no such thing as a free demographic lunch for countries.

Written by Alejandro Macarró, author of the book Demographic suicide in the West and half the world.

Photo credit: Pikist.com.

How can America be great in the future with fewer babies every year?  In the long term, no way, José.  The average number of kids per U.S. woman has dropped from 2.12 in 2007 to 1.71 in 2019, the lowest ever.  In the case of whites, it's 1.61.  This baby deficit continues to grow, and with it, America's greatness potential shrinks.  The U.S. share of world births is one third less than in 1960.  This looks good only compared to Europe, where the decline is one half less.

Immigrants haven't provided a sufficient solution to the social undermining that entails too-low birth rates in any developed nation, even in the United States, a nation that still has worldwide comparative advantages to attract high-skilled workers from other countries, with its buoyant economy, high-tech industries, limited welfare state, and powerful cultural draw.

Fewer children have many consequences.  Accelerated social aging is one of them.  Half of Americans in 2020 were 38 years old or younger, a median age that is 10 years higher than in 1970.  Two factors account for this aging: fewer children and a longer life expectancy.  By far, the first of the two is the more important contributor.  Aged societies, non-dynamic by essence, face a terrible dilemma: either they transfer an increasing share of wealth created by a shrinking working population to the elderly, or the growing ranks of pensioners are poorer and with deteriorating health care.  Fewer children also contribute to another problem: loneliness.  Fifty years ago, 5% of Americans lived alone.  Now, 11% do.

Internationally, a shrinking demographic weight endangers America's leadership.  In 1900, Europe (including Russia) had 25% of the world population; now that that is less than 10%, it is an increasingly marginal geopolitical player.  China has more than four times as many working-age people as the United States.  Once Chinese productivity per person becomes similar to the U.S. level, as the Asian giant becomes a fully developed country (and this could take just 15 to 20 more years), America's GDP will be a dwarf compared to China's: circa one fourth as large.  The U.S. can contain China if it weaves and maintains strong global alliances, and through continuously shortening of the ratio of Chinese babies to America babies in the long term.  This is a relevant reason for the USA to try to boost natality at home: to make the demographic gap with China less overwhelming.

Republicans and Democrats should join together to foster a higher U.S. natality rate.  Unfortunately, neither of them includes the recovery of higher birth rates as a key national goal in their electoral programs.

This absence is easier to understand for Democrats, generally supportive of foreign immigration and multiculturalism.  Moreover, most immigrants going to the U.S. are Hispanic or Asian, and once they can vote, they prefer the Democrats by a substantial margin.

In the case of Republicans, it is harder to understand why they don't make the need of more births a major permanent argument, in line with promising a greater America and positioning themselves as pro-family and pro-life.  In the top 10 states by number of children per woman, Republicans generally win every presidential election in 9 to 10 of them, but their core constituency (non-Hispanic whites) has the lowest birth rate of all races in the USA except Asian-Americans.  And the n-H white share of U.S. babies in 2019 was 51%, down from 65% thirty years ago.

In turn, Democrats get more votes in nearly all the 10 least fertile states, while always winning in the two most fertile ethnicities/races: Hispanics and blacks, who delivered together 39% of all U.S. babies in 2019, up from 29% in 1989.  Moreover, non-Hispanic whites are on a clear decline with more deaths than births since 2016, a gap that grows every year, as shown by CDC vital statistics, while Hispanics and blacks are on the rise.  Hence, Republicans would be doomed in the long term if preferences by race/ethnicity of voters remain the same.

One thing is sure: no matter who wins in November, America's future will be more gray than great if births don't soon rebound.  There is no such thing as a free demographic lunch for countries.

Written by Alejandro Macarró, author of the book Demographic suicide in the West and half the world.

Photo credit: Pikist.com.