Why are People Having Fewer Kids?

Perhaps it's because they don't like them very much.

The "demographic winter" is coming. So warns a new documentary of the same name. What is the demographic winter? The phrase, according to the film's promotional materials, "denotes the worldwide decline in birthrates, also referred to as the 'birth dearth,' and what that portends." The first half of Demographic Winter was previewed at the conservative Heritage Foundation a couple of weeks ago. According the film, the demographic winter augurs little good, e.g., economic collapse and social deterioration. If current trends continue world population should begin a steep decline sometime around the middle of the 21st century. Why?

Because total fertility rates (TFRs) are plummeting around the world. Population stability is achieved when each woman bears an average of 2.1 kids over the course of her lifetime—one for her, one for her male partner, and a little overage to make up to childhood deaths. Today, there are sixty countries in which TFRs are below 2.1. For example, the European Union's TFR is 1.5 and no EU member state has a TFR at replacement or above. Even high population developing countries have seen steep declines in fertility. Since 1970, China's TFR fell from 5.8 to 1.6; India's from 5.8 to 2.9; Indonesia from 5.6 to 2.4; Japan's from 2.0 to 1.3; Mexico's from 6.8 to 2.4; Brazil's from 5.4 to 2.3; and South Africa's from 5.9 to 2.7. The U.S. TFR dropped from 2.55 in 1970 to around 2.1 today, largely because of the influx of higher fertility immigrants. However, the fertility of second generation Americans drops to the level of longer established Americans.

I doubt that the "demographic winter" portends economic collapse or social deterioration, but let us set that aside for this column, and instead ask why people are choosing to have fewer children? After all, voluntary childlessness seems to violate the Darwinian premise that our genes dispose us, like all other creatures, to try to reproduce.

However, demographic data are undercutting the notion that there is some kind of sociobiological nurturing imperative, economist and demographer Nicholas Eberstadt noted during the question period following the documentary. As evidence, he pointed to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, where 30 percent of women are childless and that Hong Kong's TFR has been below 1 birth per woman for at least a decade.

Demographic Winter
asserts that "every aspect of modernity works against family life and in favor of singleness and small families or voluntary childlessness." And surely they are right. Modern societies offer people many other satisfactions and choices outside of the family. In particular women find that their time becomes more highly valued in occupations outside the home. There are no iron laws of demography, but one that comes pretty close is that the more educated women are, the fewer children they tend to have. Eberstadt also noted the best predictor of fertility levels is the desired family size as reported by women. And finally, the most profound event of the 20th century may have been the sexual revolution's drive toward gender equality, enabled by modern contraception. Unlike other creatures, people can have the fun of sex without the side effect of parenthood.

So, modernity essentially transforms children from capital goods that produce family income into consumption items to be enjoyed for their own sakes, more akin to sculptures, paintings, or theatre. But that's just the problem—according to happiness researchers, people don't really enjoy rearing children.

"Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people's overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact," reports Harvard psychologist and happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert. In addition, the more children a person has the less happy they are. According to Gilbert, researchers have found that people derive more satisfaction from eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television than taking care of their kids. "Indeed, looking after the kids appears to be only slightly more pleasant than doing housework," asserts Gilbert in his bestselling, Stumbling on Happiness (2006).

Of course, that's not what most parents say when asked. For instance, in a 2007 Pew Research Center survey people insisted that their relationships with their little darlings are of the greatest importance to their personal happiness and fulfillment. However, the same survey also found "by a margin of nearly three-to-one, Americans say that the main purpose of marriage is the 'mutual happiness and fulfillment' of adults rather than the 'bearing and raising of children.'"

Gilbert suggests that people claim their kids are their chief source of happiness largely because it's what they are expected to say. In addition, Gilbert observes that the more people pay for an item, the more highly they tend to value it and children are expensive, even if you don't throw in piano lessons, soccer camps, orthodonture, and college tuitions. Gilbert further notes that the more children people have, the less happy they tend to be. Since that is the case, it is not surprising that people are choosing to have fewer children. And if people with fewer children are happier, then people with no children must be happiest, right? Not exactly, but the data do suggest that voluntarily childless women and men are not less happy than parents. And they sure do have more money to squander as they try to pursue what happiness they can and strive to somehow fill up their allegedly empty lives.

Disclosure: My wife and I try not to flaunt our voluntarily childless lifestyle too much.

Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His most recent book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, is available from Prometheus Books.

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  • ||

    This is a bunch of BS, Ron. Remember that one time that you changed your mind about global warming? Yeah, what about that, huh? What about that?

  • ||

    let people...make their own decisions

    LOL WHUT

  • Taktix®||

    It's people like those of the Heritage Foundation, more specifically the danger of Heritage people in power, that is preventing me from having kids and will likely drive me to a vasectomy.

  • Fluffy||

    My only regret is that I probably will not live to see the crash.

    It is not misanthropic to consider the world too crowded when there are 6 billion of us. 2 billion would cover the entire range of human possibility quite well. Nothing above that figure improves my personal experience one iota.

    Urban populations don't breed at renewal rates. They never have, not consistently. This has been true since the days of ancient Rome. Urban populations rise on the basis of migration from rural areas - increases in urban populations are typically actually the result of increases in rural birth rates [or decreases in rural infant mortality]. This is why the birth rates are dropping even in "developing" countries - their populations are urbanizing.

    The drop in birthrights associated with urbanization has something to do with "choice" - but that choice is informed by the fact that populations in urban areas are more confronted by the excess of humanity than others are. By focusing on the positive alternative choices of childlessness, you're leaving out the negative factors impacting that choice - and the number one negative factor, I would submit, is that urban populations at some psychological level negatively react to crowding, like rats in a cage.

  • Michael||

    My two younger brothers, who have bred more than enough to make up for my childless wife and I, always note how much more money I seem to have with the comment: "well, why not? He doesn't have to spend any of it on kids."

    My question is why childless couples seem to have to defend their decisions not to have children when people who have too many children for their personal resources don't seem to have to defend their reckless decisions at all -- in fact, they're called "blessed."

  • ed||

    One of my very best movie-going experiences occured in a near-empty theater while viewing Das Boot in the original German. No idiots. No cell phones. Down with people! The Collapse is scheduled for mid-century? Excellent! I'll be long gone.

  • dhex||

    alternate explanation: city life is expensive, which is why you see huge immigrant and subcultural families (i.e. hacidim being the most obvious example) but not so much from what you'd call the middle class.

    then again, this topic suffers from a tremendous amount of projection anyway. if you're like me, small urban environments are attractive; for fluffy they're obvious unattractive - we then parse this particular data according to those standards.

  • Fluffy||

    Actually, dhex, I personally consider them attractive - but I acknowledge that most populations of mammals breed less when crowded. We're mammals, remember?

    Also consider that I find the birthrate-reduction aspects of urbanity to be a feature, not a bug.

  • ||

    ed | February 26, 2008, 12:17pm | #
    One of my very best movie-going experiences occured in a near-empty theater while viewing Das Boot in the original German. No idiots. No cell phones. Down with people! The Collapse is scheduled for mid-century? Excellent! I'll be long gone.


    Yeah, but it is worth seeing with a few strangers for their reaction to the ending...

    "WTF!"

  • dhex||

    if mammals breed less when crowded, then really tight immigrant communities (physically and otherwise) would have even fewer children than people living in the outer boroughs with higher incomes.

    iirc the average hacidic family is six people (mom, dad, four children) - and they're one of the poorest, if not the poorest, ethnic communities in new york city. and they're very insular and forced to live together in shrinking communities in brooklyn.

    and yet they march on as they have for the last 150 years or so.

  • dhex||

    what i meant to add on there (damn this place needs an edit function) is that there's a lot more going on than just "crowding" as an explanation. i think it's an intersection of culture, religion and finance.

  • ||

    Fuck all you childless people.

    You have all that money to spend on your own toys. Your sex is never interrupted by cries for a diaper change. You can pick up and go away for a weekend without a second thought. You make your own vacation calendar, not having to rely on what the schools say. You don't have to worry about wills, or life insurance, and when your divorces are final you never have to see the bitch again.

    Then again, it's really hard to top, "I love you, daddy. I wanna be just like you"

    Fuck all you childless people

  • ed||

    Yeah, but it is worth seeing with a few strangers for their reaction to the ending...

    Nah, my almost-total isolation served to enhance the shock and bummed-outedness.

  • kinnath||

    I used to tell people that were thinking about having children that the downside was full of tangibles and the upside was strictly a collection of intangibles. Not a recipe for success.

  • NY Voter||

    Technology has freed all the people who don't like or want children from being stuck with them, and also allows poeple who really do want them and are having problems to have them. Most people believe this is good.

    I think the technology and population boom of the 50s coincided to make a new urban culture where breederd and non breeders did not have to mix for the past 30 years.

    The real crisis will come when the kinderfrei are too old to do their own shopping, and the reduced tax base can't afford to hire each one a personal Haitian woman to take care of them.

    I wonder if Rikers Island will be converted to senior living?

  • Anyone with a bit of self-know||

    it's really hard to top, "I love you, daddy. I wanna be just like you"

    That would so frighten me.

    Not to say kids aren't great, poor judges of character though they may be.

  • Breeder||

    A upside of kids instead of say, pets, is that they can learn. I taught my cat a few tricks in the 15 years I had her, but my kids could all read and do elementary math within 6 years!

    Now they're playing chess and world of warcraft with me, and writing/performing their own entertainment for my benefit.

    Let's see a lapsa-apsu do that!

    And in 10 or 20 years: grandchildren!

  • ||

    Re Das Boot - you didn't see the end coming for the Captain Leutnant? Same as All Quiet on the Western Front and Young Lions - the sympathetic enemy needs to get nailed in the end.

  • dhex||

    hey this is amusing and sort of on-topic:

    http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2008/02/26/how-much-longer-will-our-big-cities-last/

  • ||

    I don't know whether to decry the feminists or rally around the pope. All I know is I've got two so I've (nearly) held up my end of the bargain. The rest of you slackers better but down your Rand, stop with the hand, and get busy.

  • ||

    It is not misanthropic to consider the world too crowded when there are 6 billion of us. 2 billion would cover the entire range of human possibility quite well.

    Without doing any research, I place the optimal world population at half that. Barring global catastrophe, I predict that human population will slowly start to decline and then reach a quasi-stability at some level that is small enough to be environmentally sustainable and large enought to support an affluent technological society. Of course there will be shrinking pains, but nothing compared to the population explosion problems in the third world over the last century.

    I'm normally less optimistic about the future of the human race, but it is a beautiful snow covered day out.

    BTW, I'm childless by happenstance.

  • No, duh||

    You can't train a cat to go to the fridge & get you a beer while the football game is on.

  • some dude||

    why people are choosing to have fewer children?


    Feminism:

    In particular women find that their time becomes more highly valued in occupations outside the home. There are no iron laws of demography, but one that comes pretty close is that the more educated women are, the fewer children they tend to have. Eberstadt also noted the best predictor of fertility levels is the desired family size as reported by women. And finally, the most profound event of the 20th century may have been the sexual revolution's drive toward gender equality, enabled by modern contraception.


    It's not rocket science.

  • Alister von Thengledom||

    If this is true, has anyone ever thought about who will be on earth in 2100?

    bangledeshis
    hasidim
    arabs
    southern US trailer trash
    mexicans

    Who will clean the toilets in the country club?

  • Inclusive bigot||

    What toilets?

  • some dude||

    Ronald Bailey asks if we need to bundle up for a "demographic winter," or if we should simmer down and let people who don't want kids make their own decisions about family size.


    Can't we do both? It seems like the proactive thing to do.

  • ||

    As someone who has two kids (boys ages 6 and 4) (and had them relatively late in life, 35, so I know what living childless is like), I'll say that if you were to plot a measure of happiness (whatever that might be) with time, the childless people (let's assume only emotionally healthy people) would have a graph that is much more stable and a lot less noisy and the average would be a give value H_bar (kind of like a blue chip stock).

    The people with kids would have a graph that has huge swings up and down (like a penny stock that's being heavily manipulated by big-money shorts and longs). The ups being time when the kids are behaving and being cute and cuddly, etc., and the downs would be times when they're throwing tantrums, interrupting sex, throwing up in your bed at 2am, etc.. The average would also be somewhere around H_bar.

  • 50something||

    Happiness researchers are always producing results like this, but one sentence demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of the issue of raising child, and it is this:

    "Indeed, looking after the kids appears to be only slightly more pleasant than doing housework"

    As as father of four I can tell you this, if anybody thinks that raising children is more pleasant than housework, he (or she) is delusional. Raising kids is tough demanding work for which you receive no pay and less respect.

    Although parents will always tell you of the joys of parenting the question asked always demands some silly answer like this: I love my children and they make me very happy. Really! Maybe someday, but if they're small enough to stumble over they require constant attention (and they smell). If they're old enough to drive they are expensive and worry you to death (and if they're male they smell).

    There is an interval during which they are sufficiently independent and well behaved to be a delight. But parents are really holding on and waiting for grandchildren. You get to enjoy their company, then they *go* home.

    I love my children and if given a do-over I'd have them again. But don't tell me that raising kids is more pleasant than housework. It's a silly result from a silly survey produced (probably) by childless academics (probably grad students) whose research is meaningless.

    Ask yourself this: Which is more pleasent:

    1. doing housework
    2. raising children
    3. breathing?

    What answer would any sane person give to this stupid question?

    It's BS. 'nuff said.

  • ||

    The powerful think in terms of families because they know they will die someday and want to maintain control. The Rothschild patriarch made his children and grandchildren marry their cousins to keep his power through his family undiluted. European royalty did the same thing.

    Evolutionary losers like Ron Bailey sit around writing breathless articles about "liberation biology" and artifical intelligence and then pass into oblivion. And on the way out, they leave behind infrastructure and capital returns for the children of the winners.

    Here's the real story: In a world where successful men can have only one wife and illegitimate children can genetically discover their fathers and demand financial support, the only way for successful males to support more babies than their rivals is to prevent other males from having any kids at all. Essentially, have childless Ron Bailey work to support their children.

  • ||

    Mind you, they could accomplish the same thing much more easily using chemtrails and flouridation.

  • ||

    Can't we do both? It seems like the proactive thing to do.

    No. Now go procreate.

    Oh, and what Tom said. Still, I can't imagine life without my kids. They have brought pure hell into my life, but also greater amounts of joy.

  • ||

    This seems like a ridiculous discussion. People have fewere kid's now for lot's of reasons. Here is my two cents. One of the reasons people don't have as many kids is because the incremental cost is significantly higher than in the past. Now if you have three kids you need a four bedroom, five bathroom house with a three or four car garage. people think every child needs it's own bedroom and it's own bathroom and on reching 16 it's own car. 40 to fifty years ago you didn't need a bigger house every time you had a child.

  • pedant||

    Auuuuuugghh!!!!!!!

    *has stroke*

  • Rhywun||

    they're very insular and forced to live together in shrinking communities in brooklyn

    According to The Times, they're not shrinking but expanding. In fact, the article I read said they can't build Hasidic-style Fedders' Specials (extra bedrooms, dual kitchens) fast enough.

  • dhex||

    rhywun, i was thinking of real estate/gentrification fights in boro park and south williamsburg specifically, but you're right. they're out near the rockaways and all over nj as well. but they do have to live together to some degree due to the requirements of their lifestyle/culture.

  • ||

    Patriarch:

    Essentially, have childless Ron Bailey work to support their children.

    If by "working," you mean "help bring about a freer, more prosperous world enabling human beings to flourish," you're right and I'm happy to do so.

  • Taktix®||

    Then again, it's really hard to top, "I love you, daddy. I wanna be just like you"

    Fuck all you childless people


    There, there. Does somebody need a nap?

  • ||

    I'm the father of 3 teenagers. There is nothing pleasant about childrearing, other than the result. The satisfaction comes not from the rearing, but seeing someone you love grow from a small squalling lump to a person who is intelligent, funny, and interesting. But the core of childrearing is the denial of self to the needs of others, and that is not something that sits well with boomers or generation X, or libertarians for that matter.

  • Rhywun||

    I wonder how much of an effect that gays--no longer expected to pump out kids like everyone else, at least in the West--have had on this.

  • Rhywun||

    but they do have to live together to some degree due to the requirements of their lifestyle/culture.

    Agreed. Where's the main center? Crown Heights, right?

  • Fiftysomething||

    Ron,

    Thank you for your contribution, but I was hoping the Ron Bailey Gravy Train would offer something more direct in the way of assistance.

  • ||

    One year all we got for Christmas was a sister. We were hoping for indoor plumbing.

  • ||

    People don't have as many kids because we don't need so many hands to help plow the land and slop the hogs.

  • ||

    No, Taktix, I don't need a nap. Those ended somewhere around 1991.

    My oldest wants to be a surgeon. In 20 years he may be the one carving on your ass.

    As Anonymoose said, it's all about denial of the now for the sake of the future. I've pretty much taken my shot, and I hope my sons (four of them, two of whom are adopted)grow up to be decent men who then give it their best shot, and so on through the generations.

    What's the primary lesson that each parent learns? That the sun doesn't revolve around us.

  • Taktix®||

    Tom,

    Lighten up, my comment was directed at the angry tone of your post, not the substance.

    You don't have to get angered because some of us have the wherewithal to plan when to have children by restraint and being meticulously cautious, and don't expect others to feel sorry for us for choosing to have (or not have) children.

    It's this line of thought that lands people in the "for the children" camp of legislation.

  • NY Voter||

    As as father of four I can tell you this, if anybody thinks that raising children is more pleasant than housework, he (or she) is delusional. Raising kids is tough demanding work for which you receive no pay and less respect.

    Maybe it's a definition thing, but if you mean you'd rather do 5 loads of laundry over three hours than bring three kids to a playground for 3 hours, then i disagree.

  • ||

    Taktix™--I'll speak for Tom and say that it's not anger, but (snarky) bitter envy. Very, very tired and bitter envy.

  • ||

    Taktix®,

    "For the children" is a complex phenomenon and one I'd like to seriously study, if I had the wherewithal of a hundred or so undergrads sworn to do my will. My current, unscientific suspicion is that "for the children" is more a political maneuvering code-phrase than it is a mentality; what a candidate means when he says that is: "I represent sobriety and those with something 'real' at stake here; my opponent represents irresponsibility, possibly hedonism and certainly those whose interests are more frivolous than yours, dear voter." And people buy it less because parents have some magical monopoly on self-importance, but because people in general are likely to overrate the importance of the thing they themselves are worried about.

  • ||

    Shit, my wife always asks me if I want to clean or do some type of housework or hang out with the kids (one of us has to - ages 7,5,3), I choose kids every time. Why would I do that? Am I just not enlightened enough to see that housework is more pleasant? different folks different strokes I reckon.

  • Fiftysomething||

    Going to the playground is always pleasant, but much of child rearing is more like 3AM feedings, diaper changing or mid night trips to the emergency ward because your kid was in a car accident. As I said, I love my kids, wouldn't have it any other way, but I think that trying to rank the pleasantness of various activities is a pointless exercise in many cases. The activities are not comparable along some single dimension, they don't constitute a poset in mathematical parlance, they're apples and oranges. I'm just saying we don't have kids because it's fun, although it can be. It is rewarding in ways that can't be subsumed under the rubric of "fun" or "pleasant".

    Good thing too.

  • ||

    I am guessing that if you surveyed marathon runners at various intervals during the race, they'd complain about how miserable they are. Upon crossing the finish line, they would talk about the overall achievement and how wonderful it was. Same with raising kids.

  • ||

    It is not misanthropic to consider the world too crowded when there are 6 billion of us. 2 billion would cover the entire range of human possibility quite well. Nothing above that figure improves my personal experience one iota.

    Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. But it is a tad more important to those 4 billion themselves.

  • ||

    MikeP--

    I don't think he was anywhere near claiming that four billion people should die. Just that maybe it isn't so bad that they're not in line to be replaced.

  • dhex||

    Agreed. Where's the main center? Crown Heights, right?

    depends on the subset. the main body of satmar are in boro park, with like another 30 ethnic subsets of orthodox.

    the lubavitch are in crown heights, but their numbers are shrinking as the caribbean population grows.

    (warning i may have spelled every single word in these posts incorrectly.)

  • NoStar||

    That was the best Ron Bailey disclosure notice ever!

  • ||

    No real anger here, Tak, not even any real envy, JW, bitter or otherwise.

    I recently dated a woman of 50 who had never had kids. She would go on and on about my "limitations" as a potential partner due to my "encumbrances" and "tethers" at home. I finally shut her up by asking point blank, "Who would care if you died tomorrow?" She thought for a moment and then burst into tears.

    In today's America, there are way too many "Hey, look at me!" parents, with the brag stickers all over the back windshield, the moms wearing their sons' jerseys at games, etc. I don't join in, but I can understand those who might over-celebrate a job that basically starts with being handed a lump filled with shit, piss and mucus, and being expected to mold something useful out of it.

    Besides, children are the cheapest source of humor around. Nothing beats having your 4-year-old innocently ask you what "motherfucker" means while you're in the grocery store checkout line.

  • shecky||

    Kids are a lot of work and consume lots of resources. Unlike the past, you can't put them to work or kick them out at 10. Modern technology reduces the number of accidental pregnancies. In today's world, that leaves folks to become parents only when they really want. Reasons that start emotionally, with rarely a thought of practicality or destiny.

    The result is fewer unwanted kids, happier adults, and a better world.

  • kinnath||

    Besides, children are the cheapest source of humor around. Nothing beats having your 17-year-old call you at 3 am and say "Don't worry, we're OK . . . . . "

  • ed||

    My mommy went to the hospital and all I got was this stupid sister.

  • ||

    I don't think he was anywhere near claiming that four billion people should die. Just that maybe it isn't so bad that they're not in line to be replaced.

    It is astonishing... Every single time I bring up the fact that the total utility of humanity might be of some interest or importance, I get accused of calling people mass murderers.

    I am not in any way suggesting that anyone is or wants to be a mass murderer.

    I am simply noting that the suggestion that each individual's personal utility may be 10% higher with 2 billion people than with 6 billion people means that you are preferring a total utility across all people of 2.2 billion to a total utility of 6 billion.

    It is not clear to me that that is the right choice, even if I myself might selfishly prefer it.

    Standard disclaimer: People should have as many children as they want. Government should not subsidize the having or not having of children.

  • ||

    Kinnath,

    I just put my oldest on my car insurance over the weekend, and watched the premium price go up $1,077.83 in a blink, the same weekend that gas here went up 15 cents overnight. Even he agreed that the school bus that stops right in front of the house doesn't look so bad now.

  • ||

    I used to think that parents were just saying what they had to say when they talked about how "fulfilling" it was to have kids. They often looked tired and stressed out, and it seemed unconvincing.

    Then I had a daughter. Yeah, I get a little tired and stressed sometimes. But I can't think about her without smiling, and I find myself thinking about her all the time.

    You childless folks--don't miss it.

  • ||

    For about a gazillion years, children were both a public good (they grew up into soldiers and taxpayers) and a private asset (they worked on the farm or in the family business or they increased clan security by entering into useful marriage alliances.)

    Children in the industrialized countries are still public assets but pure liabilities to individual familes.

    I'm sure Mommy and Daddy love their little Jennifers and Miachels just as much as our great-grandparents loved their Pearls and Ebenezers but Jennifer and Michael, considered purely from a financial aspect, are nothing but a drain on the family resources and huge oportunity cost for Mommy.

    The U.S. in particular can't seem to decide if having children is a social good and thus deserving of public support or some sort of indulgent luxury, like buying a Corvette.

  • ||

    What's the primary lesson that each parent learns? That the sun doesn't revolve around us.

    If only that were true. Too many act like just the opposite is true, especially once they figure out they can live vicariously through their kid.

  • kinnath||

    Total tally:

    Son: one totalled car (mine) & one defaulted car loan (his)

    Daughter: two totalled cars (both hers) & one defaulted car lon (hers)

  • Zorkmid||

    Evolution doesn't plan ahead. For all of time before the 1960's it was enough, adaptation wise, that people enjoy sex-- children would follow. Now people can have sex (or TV) without the consequence of childbearing. However, while evolution doesn't plan ahead it always works with whatever's available. In a few generations everyone will be descended from people who actually do want children, or who are too stupid to practice contraception. Look for a future human race with a lower average IQ but a higher average interest in childbearing.

    (The birth dearth does affect our politics in various ways. Consider the Safety Nazis, always imposing more onerous yet pointless seatbelt laws and so-forth. One reason their line: "it's for the children" appeals so much is that children nowadays are costly and rare. When most everyone got married and had 3 or 4 or 5 of those precious bairns society was willing to shrug off the occasional loss.)

  • kinnath||

    There is a small cemetary within walking distance of my house. It dates back to the settlement days here in the midwest. I remember one set of graves where there were three children under the age of 1 buried side by side. Two of the graves were for infants that did not have given names.

    Parents did not get attached to their children until they were school-aged and could perform chores, because so many died before reaching that age.

  • ||

    "If only that were true. Too many act like just the opposite is true, especially once they figure out they can live vicariously through their kid."

    Very true, R.C. The booster club recently tried to sell me a team shirt to "show my support" for my kid and his teammates. I replied that it was my son who was on the team, not me. They really looked puzzled at that.

    One mom was upset because her son didn't give her his opposing-color jersey to wear to games; he let his girlfriend wear it. "Mom, you're not in high school any more," he replied.

    I expect to see moms wearing their kids' graduation rings soon.

  • ChildFree||

    Could the parents here rationalize a little harder? I'm still not convinced they are convinced.

    Managing to do the same thing any bug or rat manages to do everyday doesn't make you special, doesn't make you better than me, and certainly doesn't mean I should have to pick up your fucking slack for the hundredth snow day / dentist / eye doctor / etc. here at work.

    All I hear is: Misery loves company; let's all have kids.

  • economist||

    There's only one problem with our self-satisfied childlessness: the people who probably shouldn't breed are breeding heavily. Eventually, we will be overpowered.

  • economist||

    NO, I'M NOT SAYING THAT EVERYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN SHOULDN'T. JUST THAT IT HAPPENS A LOT AMONG PEOPLE WHO SHOULDN'T.

  • Doctor||

    Clevon is lucky to be alive. He attempted to jump a jet ski from a lake into a swimming pool and impaled his crotch on an iron gate. But thanks to advances in stem cell research and the fine work of Doctors Krenske and Mueller, he should regain full reproductive function again.

  • ||

    I'm not rationalizing, Childfree. It IS all about ME. I LOVE hearing MY last name called out over the loudspeakers when MY kid scores a goal. I love stranding you childless shits with work so I can take MY kid to the doctor; payback for those weeklong cruises you childless shits take.

    We are better than you.

  • ||

    Easy, economist.

    I actually identify a lot with Tom, and believe that I still will when I have kids. I do disagree, however, that children are a "cheap" form of entertainment. From what I understand, they can be quite costly.

    Really, I look forward to the challenge of having kids and not actually screwing them up. I believe that it doesn't take that much effort, but rather consistency and honesty. So many people I've seen can't train a dog because they can't understand the concept of consistency. Training a dog seems like it would be harder for me because of communication, and their ability to outrun and outhide a human within a month of birth. Human children take a lot longer to be able to get around, and by then you can adequately communicate with them.

  • ||

    ... Though I must say that I'm a little more modest than Tom. lol. At least he gets his point across.

  • kinnath||

    Really, I look forward to the challenge of having kids and not actually screwing them up. I believe that it doesn't take that much effort, but rather consistency and honesty.

    Wrong, hardest job on earth.

    Most rewarding job on earth is subject to debate.

  • ||

    kinnath,

    What is the hard part? Their physical safety? Their emotional wellbeing? At which point on Moslov's Hierarchy of Needs does a parent's job become difficult? I really am curious.

    Maybe I'm delirious, but it all sounds like a great challenge. Fortunately, I'm a realist and an optimist all rolled up in one.

  • ||

    Correction: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

  • Daniel Reeves||

    I hate children. Or at least the children most other people raise. And I hate how everybody treats misbehaving children. In our church's social hall during a spaghetti dunner, the kids kept running around. The youth who were running the dinner would duck down and in their cutesy voices, say "could you please stop running? :) :)" Go figure: the kids keep running right when a person says that. I got tired of it and I put on my not quite yelling but loud and assertive voice and said, "stop running." The little demons slowed down, and a parent came over to control the children. It kind of worked.

    The worst part was that the parents wouldn't get a hold of their children. The parents would watch their children run around the place when the youth are carrying plates of spaghetti, table to table. I don't care if little Jimmy and Hannah are "just kids." Get a goddamn hold of your children.

    The only reason I'd ever have kids is to show that I can do it better than other people. I wouldn't take shit from my kids. When other parents ask me how I do it as their child runs around misbehaving, I'd crouch down, pick the parents' child up, and spank the wretched thing.

  • ChildFree||

    Tom,

    At least you admit you're a self-aggrandizing cunt.

  • ||

    I'm sure you came across as an old, unhappy prick, huh, Daniel? Perhaps you should join a new church where you actually share more in common with your fellow parishioners?

    "I wouldn't take shit from my kids."

    That's exactly what it takes! I can't ever understand why people take crap from their kids. The supposedly difficult line we stumble over is trying to convince our children that when they screw up and we punish them that it's for their own good.

    I (presumably naively) look forward to proving that effective parenting is not. that. hard.

  • ||

    Managing to do the same thing any bug or rat manages to do everyday doesn't make you special, doesn't make you better than me, and certainly doesn't mean I should have to pick up your fucking slack for the hundredth snow day / dentist / eye doctor / etc. here at work.

    For what it's worth, I miss not being able to stay late at work. I hate having to take my kids to the doctors especially if it involves sticking some other person at work with my job duties. Even snow days with them are fun for only the first hour or so, then they get cold outside and want to come in and cause chaos inside, which makes me wish I was at work.

  • ||

    I think that the most difficult time I will have as a parent will be knowing when to show my hand. Sometimes honest parents may give too much away, but if you are slier than your progeny, you should be able to pick up on when they are trying to trick you.

  • ||

    That's exactly what it takes! I can't ever understand why people take crap from their kids. The supposedly difficult line we stumble over is trying to convince our children that when they screw up and we punish them that it's for their own good.

    I (presumably naively) look forward to proving that effective parenting is not. that. hard.


    I was a much better parent before I had kids too.

  • kinnath||

    What is the hard part?

    I really would like to give you a good answer for this question, but I am afraid it would take a novel-length dissertation to do the subject justice.

    I (presumably naively) look forward to proving that effective parenting is not. that. hard.

    Yes, you are truly naive.

  • ||

    Point well taken, NAL. I have been criticized time and again by people saying I think too ideally. At least coming in aiming this high, I don't think I'll be able to come out being remotely close to being a terrible parent.

  • ||

    "I was a much better parent before I had kids too."

    Yeah, Danny! Quit thinking you all dat! Kids are going to act like fuckin' brats no matter what you do, so you'd better just suck it up and accept it if you're going to have kids.

  • ||

    And you, kinnath, sound truly bitter. Perhaps I'll just add your name to the list of people who want me to call them when I've done a good job of being a parent. Of course, that job is never really over, and I could have just gotten lucky with good kids. It could never be due to actually effective parenting.

  • ||

    Danny, you're right, it's not the hardest job on earth. All you need is classical conditioning.

    They do something not allowed, they get negative reinforcement. They do something good, they get postive reinforcement. All the time.

    I have people ask me why my kids are well behaved in certain situations and they always look at me funny when I tell them classical conditioning.

    Oh yeah, and not being afraid of them "not loving you".

    And allow them to tell you their point of view, but don't let think they get to make the decisions in the family.

  • ||

    If that's true, Pirate Jo, then absolutely nobody should have kids. Let's start the first annual, international "Neuter EVERYONE Day" tomorrow and be done with it.

  • ||

    How can I get a job that I like so much that I would trade time at the job over time with my family? I guess they pay well? Or not?

  • ||

    News Flash: Raising a familiy is incredibly arduous and time consuming.
    Other News Flash: Nearly any thing worth doing is incredibly arduous and time consuming.

    It's that Rome Wasn't Built In A Day trope...but it's true. Beethoven wrote some of humanity's greates music ever, and he lost sleep and neglected food an hygeine while doing it. The founding fathers formed the greatest democracy in the world, and many of them lost their lives or died in poverty. Would they have changed their minds about it? Was it worth all the sacrifice?

    How can we quantify the difference between the extreme discomfort of sacrifice and the excquisite satisfaction that often follows it?

    Raising children is probably the greatest sacrifice most people make, and it is undoubtedly very unpleasant in many ways, but how many of them would truly give it up? I mean if they didn't have to fear social judgment, how many of them would dump their kids?

    There must be some unquantifiable joy that parents are getting and that they can't properly articulate, so al the childless folk (of which I am a member currently) just think they're rationalizing to fit in.

  • ||

    I recently dated a woman of 50 who had never had kids. She would go on and on about my "limitations" as a potential partner due to my "encumbrances" and "tethers" at home. I finally shut her up by asking point blank, "Who would care if you died tomorrow?" She thought for a moment and then burst into tears.



    1) So she had no friends? She seems to have bigger problems than a lack of children.

    2) Having children so one has someone to care when he or she dies doesn't really sound like something a person would say after learning "the sun doesn't revolve around us."

  • kinnath||

    And you, kinnath, sound truly bitter.

    Two children and four grand children. My kids were kind and well-behaved. People always complemented my wife and I on our children. I fully believe the world is a better place because I had children.

    You mistake experience for bitterness. Come back in 30 years or so and brag if you still feel like it.

  • ||

    "There are no iron laws of demography, but one that comes pretty close is that the more educated women are, the fewer children they tend to have"

    I recently saw a movie on cable named "Idiocracy". The premise was similar to the above quote. Opening the movie were scenes (from 100(?) years previous) of intelligent upscale and childless couples telling why they were childless. Intermixed were redneck, hillbilly and other low brow characters surrounded by packs of screaming kids.

    The movie then returns to the "present" where a man and woman of ordinary intelligence have just been defrosted from cyrosleep where they had been for the last 100 years. Being of normal intelligence, they are geniuses by current standard.

    Not a great movie, but one that was funny in places and made one think about who is having kids these days.

  • ||

    I wholeheartedly agree, Spock. Especially on that last note. My parents haven't given a crap what I have to say for, gosh, decades? My mom really tries to act like her making all of the decisions herself is a "family decision", but, somehow, me and my foster brothers never would accept it.

    Of course there will be tough cases, but that doesn't mean that the method is wrong. Special cases need special consideration.

  • kinnath||

    There must be some unquantifiable joy that parents are getting and that they can't properly articulate, . . .

    To repeat myself: I used to tell people that were thinking about having children that the downside was full of tangibles and the upside was strictly a collection of intangibles.

  • ||

    They do something not allowed, they get negative reinforcement. They do something good, they get postive reinforcement. All the time.

    Ah yes, the First Iron Law.

    You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish.

    It works, people.

  • ||

    I'm at home with my kids, so I don't have time to read all the comments. (Irony anyone?) Sorry if I just repeat something that's already been said.

    I don't know if "people" don't like kids any more, or not. IMHO, the reason I don't want any more kids is (1) nanny state regs, and (2) the cost. Kids require a lot more state-mandated "gear" than they used to, and it's virtually impossible to raise any kids on a single income and/or afford day care that a dump.

    On a similar topic, DINCs are like atheists, except that atheists can hide their religious philosophy. I don't look down on you/think you're missing out on something for not having kids. You don't have to justify your lifestyle choice.

  • kinnath||

    My wife was eating in our small-town diner one night while baby-sitting our grandson. He was acting poorly, so she gave him a quick smack on the back of the head.

    Two strangers then approached her and chastised her using "corporal" punishment. When she told them to get lost, they stated that they worked with DHS and that they had the power to take my grandson that instant if they felt if was necessary.

    Fortunately, the other 15 or 20 people in the diner told the two busybodies that they weren't going anywhere with my grandson unless they were willing to call the police in for reinforcement.

  • ||

    "If that's true, Pirate Jo, then absolutely nobody should have kids. Let's start the first annual, international "Neuter EVERYONE Day" tomorrow and be done with it."

    Hee hee hee ... now you're talking!

    But seriously, look around you - you don't see ALL parents letting their kids act like complete hellions. Why is it unreasonable to think you can't raise well-behaved children when there are already people out there who have proven it can be done? You don't have to be a parent yourself to see that.

    That said, I must admit I really don't give the issue much thought. I'm just glad it's other people who have to deal with children and not me.

  • ||

    kinnath,

    Perhaps you believe that when I said parenting isn't hard, you heard me say that it doesn't take a lot of time and effort? This obviously isn't so. I suppose my point is that it doesn't (or at least shouldn't) take more than average intelligence to do it well.

    Besides, what were you doing when you mentioned that your kids have totaled three cars. Bragging?

  • freedom geek||

    This fall in population growth is a good thing. We are probably going to be able to have immortality soon and this will help against those who try to ban it while screaming about overpopulation.

  • Fluffy||

    Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. But it is a tad more important to those 4 billion themselves.

    I have no doubt that it is, but that's not really relevant to my statement.

    I particularly focused on putative accusations of misanthropy because I always get that when I say I wish the world was less crowded.

    And I don't mean misanthropy in the sense of wishing bad things on 4 billion people. I mean being accused of misanthropy because I think 2 billion people is plenty to look at, and 4 more billion don't really add anything.

    150 million Americans was plenty. Adding 150 million just made it impossible to point your nose anywhere without being overwhelmed by everyone else and their piles of crap. When I point this out, I am called a misanthrope. And I just don't think it's misanthropy to fully appreciate the delights of being surrounded by 2 billion people and their works, but to think that being surrounded by 6 billon is just overdoing it a tad.

    I like lobster, but if you jammed it down my throat with one of those fois gras goose feeder things 24/7 I wouldn't like it anymore. I also like people, but...can't some of you find somewhere else to be once in a while?

  • ||

    "...burst into tears". Hmm, interesting. First, YOU aren't going to care after you've died, so why do you think it important that your survivors sit around depressed for a while? Second, wake-up call...3 or 4 generations from now nobody in your own family is going to care that you died. Hell, they won't even remember you, short of some cheesy photos of "Great-grandpa whats-his-name".

  • ||

    "I finally shut her up by asking point blank, "Who would care if you died tomorrow?" She thought for a moment and then burst into tears."

    Maybe she was crying because the date sucked. It does sound like she was being snide and critical about your kids, and I probably wouldn't have liked that either. But assuming that a) No one cares if you die if you don't have kids, or b) Anyone cares if you die just because you have kids, is just plain wrong.

  • ||

    You should have told the DHS that you'd show them some corporal punishment! Honestly, you are lucky that those others stood up for you. DHS and others can be absolutely ruthless in standing up for the wrong thing.

  • Fluffy||

    Oh, and to contribute to the "misbehaving children" discussion, I think our definition of "misbehaving children" has changed as the birth rate has fallen.

    If only because children were formerly ubiquitous, a street full of kids running around and screaming used to be just "a street". If you were walking down it, you would think, "Well, here I am walking down a street." Now precisely because there are fewer children, if a single child steps one toe outside for 5 seconds and kicks a ball, ten hypersensitive assholes who live on that street shriek, "Some misbehaving kid is making too much noise and making it impossible for me to concentrate on the shitty novel I'm pretending to write on my shitty Mac notebook. Can't someone medicate that kid or something?"

  • dhex||

    western pennsylvania is pretty uncrowded!

  • ||

    Fluffy-
    Nah, a long, long time ago my parents raised me to be quiet and polite in restaurants. Acting like a hellion in a restaurant was not acceptable.
    What's changed is that a lot of parents today seem to think letting their children run wild in public is acceptable.

  • cranky old man||

    DHS takes kids? Why don't they take the ones who spill stuff in the supermarket and run away?

  • kinnath||

    I suppose my point is that it doesn't (or at least shouldn't) take more than average intelligence to do it well.

    Define "hard" then.

    Hard is watching your infant struggle to breathe in an oxygen tent.

    Hard is walking your young child through an amusement park with liquid shit running down both legs because you didn't get to the bathroom soon enough.

    Hard is telling your kids you love them even though they just totalled your only car and you don't know how you're going to get to work.

    Hard is 20 years times 365 days times 24 hours of trying to do the right thing when you can't know what it is for sure with the knowledge that mistakes can produce catestrophic results.

    And by way, everyone and I mean everyone, will be happy to tell you everything you are doing wrong every step of the way.

  • Daniel Reeves||

    I (presumably naively) look forward to proving that effective parenting is not. that. hard.


    I don't think that being a parent would be easy, only that the marginal input of being a good parent is relatively little. You just have to suck it up. If you can't spank your "little angel" when he or she does wrong and say no to her or his whims, well, it just shows how much you really care for them in the long run.

  • ||

    I won't presume to say that those times weren't difficult, particularly an infant struggling to breathe. Perhaps bitter was too strong a word. I don't mean to mock you, at all, it's just that some people (I'm presuming myself is included) are predisposed to be a little bit more detached in such a way that it makes those times and decisions easier.

  • ||

    Daniel, I already mentioned that here. You've gotta be able to at least punish your kids, but it's equally imperative to be able to follow through by telling them that it's ultimately for their own good.

  • ChildFree||

    There must be some unquantifiable joy that parents are getting

    That's just Stockholm Syndrome.

  • ||

    Wow, ChildFree. You are a cynic.

  • ||

    Oh, and to contribute to the "misbehaving children" discussion, I think our definition of "misbehaving children" has changed as the birth rate has fallen.

    You're right that its changed, but wrong about the direction of change. I think smaller families are associated with worse behavior, not crankier adults.

    In the urban areas where I have lived, families were smaller and further in between, and the kids were generally less civil, courteous and well-behaved.

    In the more rural areas, there are more kids, and they are almost without exception civil, courteous, and well-behaved.

  • ||

    How true, R C. Walk into Scottsdale (AZ) and those prissy bitches on daddy's dime won't even understand the words "civil" or "courteous". As was mentioned elsewhere, kids that can socialize with kids learn social norms a lot quicker.

  • ||

    Ah yes, the First Iron Law.

    You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish.

    It works, people.


    Let me introduce you to my daughter. You'll be burning the Spock books within the first hour.

  • ||

    I don't think ChildFree is a cynic - ChildFree just doesn't see what's to get all excited about re having kids. Frankly, I don't either. I "get" that some other people enjoy it, but the stuff that trips their triggers doesn't seem to be the same stuff that trips mine.

  • ||

    Pirate Jo, the date didn't suck. She just was very snide about how superior her life was to mine, since she could do whatever she wanted when she wanted. I really didn't care if anyone cared about her if she died, I just wanted to shut her up. After her tears subsided, she confessed that her first husband has compelled her to have an abortion because he didn't want kids, and that the procedure screwed her up fertility wise. She had always wanted kids, but couldn't have any of her own.

    See, there's rationalization on both sides.

  • ||

    No real anger here, Tak, not even any real envy, JW, bitter or otherwise.

    C'mon Tom, what you wrote is bitter, envious and I feel it too, more often than I like.

    Hell, I work with almost nothing but single women in their 20's and gay men. Breeders are a rare commodity around here. You should see the disposable income of the gay portion here; all I can do is sigh.

    I call my kids my 2 little Beemer payments. I figure that's about right, maybe even underestimating a bit.

  • ||

    Hi Tom, it is interesting that although your date had always wanted kids, she was very quick to put you down for ... having kids! Maybe she had a bad case of the fox and the grapes. I think her story is kind of sad, but it is tiresome to listen to anyone run down your life choices, whatever those choices are.

    I don't want kids and won't have them. If you asked me whether anyone would care if I died, my response would be very much like Our Good Buddy Johnny Clarke's above: "YOU aren't going to care after you've died, so why do you think it important that your survivors sit around depressed for a while?" But then again I don't criticize people for having kids, either. I have dated a few guys with kids, and a lot of my friends have them. I just figure they know what they're doing and doing what makes them happy. None of my business!

  • ||

    JW, if you don't spend it on the kids, you spend it somewhere else.

    Try being a single father and dating in your 40s. The available women with kids want you to love theirs, but they don't want yours (they fear being a "step-mother"). The childless ones fear your children and your commitment to them. You think you're a catch if you're a stand-up guy who stands by the kids you fathered? Guess again.

  • ||

    Pirate Jo

    Well that's not how it's coming across. He/she is saying that people MUST not enjoy children. Go back and read it. I also understand that people may not enjoy having kids. I don't give a shit if people do or don't want to have kids. I just know that I do, but hopefully I'd still be happy if I didn't.

  • ||

    Pirate Jo, well, she did also admit she's been in therapy for 25 years.....

  • ||

    "The childless ones fear your children and your commitment to them."

    Huh ... when I dated guys with kids, I thought that was fine, since guys who already have kids aren't going to want any more. And I don't want any, so no worries! Current BF has no kids and feels the same way I do, which is great. But I never had a problem dating guys with kids - it was even easier as their kids got older, and some of their kids were fun to be around. Current BF has an 8-year-old niece who is a blast.

    Which brings me to wonder, now that we're on the subject, when all these childfree people die, who will inherit their wealth? I'm thinking they will leave a lot of money to charities and to other people's kids, so how could that be a bad thing? When I die without reproducing, I'll also be freeing up a job for someone else's kid. So who says we aren't contributing anything to the future?

  • ||

    Tom

    The problem there is that you are still trying to date women. They were crazy when you were young, and (somehow) are still crazy to this day.

  • kinnath||

    I don't mean to mock you, at all, it's just that some people (I'm presuming myself is included) are predisposed to be a little bit more detached in such a way that it makes those times and decisions easier.

    I hope you choose to forgo children then.

  • ||

    "So who says we aren't contributing anything to the future?"

    I didn't say it, Jo. :-)

  • ||

    Why? Because having children must be a horrible and terrible process in order to be worthwhile? Something tells me that you aren't telling the full story. I need more details because what you've given me is not enough proof that I won't be able to handle parenthood. You've survived.

  • ||

    "I didn't say it, Jo."

    No, I don't mean you - I'm talking about those Demographic Winter boobs. They act like it's the end of the world if the population declines. Well I think there are ways to make the world a better place besides adding more people to it. A smaller population, but one with a higher standard of living, would still be a population that is better off.

    Don't get me started on the demographic effect on Social Security. Can't wait to see that piece of crap die, even though I've lost lots of money on it. Maybe BECAUSE I've lost lots of money on it.

  • ||

    Really, please start giving a more compelling argument or get out. I'm tired of people giving commands without reasoning. Why should I choose to forgo having children if I can remain slightly more detached and make certain correct decisions a little bit easier?

  • ||

    Brooklyn Hasidim:

    Williamsburg: Satmar, Pupa, Karlin-Stolin, some other Hungarian style Hasidim. Poorest community by far. Six people would be a very small family.

    Borough Park: Bobov, Ger, many many others, some non-Hasidic Orthodox.

    Crown Heights: Lubavitch. The community is not shrinking at all (but Crown Heights Lubavitch demographics are unusual because it's relatively transient--couples going on shlichut), but there is pressure.

    Midwood (always referred to by Jews as Flatbush, but not to be confused with the neighborhood north of Brooklyn College) also has a large population of non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews with large families. They're moving into Marine Park and Kensington.

    All these communities have extraordinary growth rates. Hasidim are forming satellite communities elsewhere, particularly in Rockland County (Monsey and surrounds) and near Monroe (Kiryas Joel has the highest birth rate in the state). Non-Hasidic Orthodox are moving to Monsey, New Jersey (Passaic, Lakewood, Teaneck) and the Five Towns/Far Rockaway.

    Herein concludes your lesson in Orthodox demography.

  • ||

    "They were crazy when you were young, and (somehow) are still crazy to this day."

    Not only that, but we've had even more years of experience with which to perfect our 'craziness' techniques. I promised the rest of the women in the Secret Sisterhood I wouldn't tell, but ...

  • ||

    I know. I was just backing you up, dawg! (Yes, us breeders can, in fact, stand up for those that have chosen not to bear children.)

  • ||

    Well, I appreciate you divulging that bit of important information. Lesson learned. :-)

  • ||

    Pirate Jo,

    Do you live urban or in the burbs? I think a lot of hesitation on many burb women's part is that my kids are not safely away at college or in the full custody of their mother. I have full custody of all four. My two little ones start kindergarten this fall. They don't need a new momma, but that seems to be what a lot of women fear (plus we have Disney to thank for the Evil Stepmother paranoia).

    Many burb women also need you to help pick up the tab on their McMansions. I own an earlier version, circa 1978, that's paid off, and I have no urge to take on their debt.

  • Woody Allen||

    I could have just gotten lucky with good kids.

    A rather crass way of phrasing it, but yes, that can happen too.

  • ||

    I don't like sugar-coating when the simple, slightly harsh, truth will do. (Just ask my girlfriend of 2.25 years.)

  • Mad Max||

    "You just have to suck it up. If you can't spank your 'little angel' when he or she does wrong and say no to her or his whims, well, it just shows how much you really care for them in the long run."

    Presuming, of course, you don't spank them in public where the social workers can have you arrested.

    ". . . she confessed that her first husband has compelled her to have an abortion because he didn't want kids, and that the procedure screwed her up fertility wise. She had always wanted kids, but couldn't have any of her own."

    Wait, I thought that stuff about abortion making women infertile was just a myth spread by the Radical Religious Right (TM)!

  • ||

    "150 million Americans was plenty. Adding 150 million just made it impossible to point your nose anywhere without being overwhelmed by everyone else and their piles of crap"

    I don't believe that. Very large parts of te US have had decades of no growth or rapid decline in population. The old-school big cities on the east coast have lost population. If you don't like people just move were they are not. Here in NW PA you can buy land for $1000 acre.

  • Fluffy||

    You folks who remember yourselves being polite and quiet in restaurants as children are all wet.

    You were just as noisy as kids are now. Kids [including you as a kid] don't perceive themselves as loud. But there were so many kids then, the restaurants were louder, and so no one heard you. That's all.

    Fewer restaurants were pretending to be upscale, also. A HoJo's full of noisy kids was just a HoJo's. A PF Chang's with one noisy kid in it is an excuse for wretched suburbanites to have anxiety attacks.

    Here's how to avoid being annoyed by children: whenever you're home, turn on every TV and radio in your house loud enough so that you can't really talk without raising your voice a little. This will eventually become the new normal for you and you will tune all noise, including kids, out.

  • ||

    Try being a single father and dating in your 40s. The available women with kids want you to love theirs, but they don't want yours (they fear being a "step-mother"). The childless ones fear your children and your commitment to them. You think you're a catch if you're a stand-up guy who stands by the kids you fathered? Guess again.

    This is why god invented hookers and porn.

    Thanks for the heads up. Staying married doesn't sound so bad now.

  • Paul||

    and the number one negative factor, I would submit, is that urban populations at some psychological level negatively react to crowding, like rats in a cage.

    I can't speak for historical demographic trends (you mention Rome) but I can speak for individual choice vis. birthrates and the urban environment in the modern (current) age.

    I don't really think that a lot of urban dwellers are consciously thinking about "overcrowding" when they make the choice of having offspring. In modern times, most urban dwellers are more affluent, educated and have long arcing careers. This does not lend itself well to a large number of offspring. Add into this that urban real estate is most often more expensive than suburban or rural real estate, and the space to have said children becomes limited as well. This last part could be construed as "overcrowding", but it's a very extraneous line of thinking because one can certainly move a few miles to the suburbs and get that extra space by increasing your commute by say, 20 to 50%.

    As a modern urban dweller with only one child, these choices (to have only one child) are abundantly clear... because we made them. In addition, since most of my friends are also urban dwellers, I'm familiar with their choices as well.

    There are other choices as well, much more difficult to quantify, but again, many modern urban dwellers put up with the so-called inconveniences of city life for just such intangibles: Lifestyle, access to services and entertainments, quality of life etc. Some of these things inform our choices to have (more) children.

  • Paul||

    when people who have too many children for their personal resources don't seem to have to defend their reckless decisions at all -- in fact, they're called "blessed."

    Oh but Michael, they do have to defend their decisions, if they find themselves whining (in my presence) about lack of resources while their 9 offspring run around and dad's doing 90 days in county for selling crystal meth and mom's drunk until 10am.

    The problem is, criticism of these "decisions" to have more children is seen as... shall we say, "neanderthal" or "mean-spirited".

    I remember listening to a story on NPR where a CPS worker was talking about his job, and he mentioned that when he takes away a baby from a family who were dead...broke... and had no job skills and no prospects, yet continued to have yet more children-- he added in that really, they were "doing the best they could".

    I nearly drove off the road and started screaming at the radio. No, they're not doing the best they can. When they were dirt-poor, and had their third child, a flag should have gone off. Then when they had the fourth, a bigger flag should have been raised-- then on their fifth and sixth child, someone needs to go smack them so far back their clothes would go back in style. They're not doing the best they can, they're making Bad Life Choices(tm) by having more children.

  • ||

    I have seen this from both sides. I used to have 5 kids, until their mother failed geography (she thinks that "fidelity" is that town in Pennsylvania where they have the Liberty Bell). I was then run out of my kids' lives, where I remain until this day (all anyone cared about was if the child support was paid).

    I spent the next 10 years on my own. I traveled, set my own schedule (pretty much) and never had to deal with all of the trials of being dad to teenagers. What I "gained" doesn't even pay the interest on what I missed out on. I'll admit that it would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when my ex-wife gave our girls "the talk" about chastity...no doubt while cradling their illegitimate younger sister in her lap.

    Now I am in a relationship with a much better lady (from the Philippines) who has two great kids, so I will have the chance to see teenhood after all!

    I am looking forward to this more than any childless person could imagine. Solo stinks.

  • ||

    Tom, I live in the suburbs, in a condo. That is funny what you said about the McMansions - I've never had the desire to own one of those. Four children is a pretty good-sized brood, though, and the two little ones are awfully young. Most of the women you have dated probably want to get married at some point in the future, so your situation puts them in the position of having to choose between being the evil stepmother or waiting another 18 years to get married. Now me, I'm not really interested in getting married, either - but most women are.

    Keith Wood tells a very sad story but makes an interesting point in the process. Do men have any incentive to get married and have kids when they can be hosed by the legal system in this manner? Jesus Christ on a donkey. That sucks.

  • ||

    Fewer restaurants were pretending to be upscale, also. A HoJo's full of noisy kids was just a HoJo's. A PF Chang's with one noisy kid in it is an excuse for wretched suburbanites to have anxiety attacks.

    That said, it would be a good thing if more parents were considerate of others who want to have a nice quiet dinner. Frankly, I'm not sure why any parent would take young kids to a sit-down-and-order restaurant. Dining out should be fun, and dining out with young kids is not, no matter how good the food is. My boys are 6 and 4 and still haven't been to a restaurant that doesn't have a "Play Place".

  • ||

    "Do men have any incentive to get married and have kids when they can be hosed by the legal system in this manner? Jesus Christ on a donkey. That sucks."

    It does, rather.

    However, I miss my kids, and wouldn't trade one minute of the time that I had with them for anything in this world. So yes, there is an incentive.

  • ||

    "That said, it would be a good thing if more parents were considerate of others who want to have a nice quiet dinner. Frankly, I'm not sure why any parent would take young kids to a sit-down-and-order restaurant."

    I would be happy to not take my kids to any resturant with were they were not welcome by managment. If we go to a non-chain I always ask if it is OK. However, a low-brow sit down place like applebee's or denny's have kids meals and highchairs. If you don't like normaly behaved kids being there take it up with the managment. Same with the airplane- if the airline wants my money they had better take kids, and the people around me are just going to have to live with it. If an airline had kid free flights that would be fine, it's there airplane.

  • ||

    as a follow-up they should have kids sections on the airplane. The minorty who are really bother by children would be happy and parents could relax a bit.

  • ||

    "as a follow-up they should have kids sections on the airplane"

    Isn't that what those overhead bins are for?

  • some ass||

    Nick's got kids. Do they make him happy or miserable?

  • LP||

    Do what you will but don't knock childless people out of jealousy. We decide to spend our money elsewhere. So what? For those of you who have kids, what do you care?

  • ||

    I GET IT NOW.

    Libertarians are selfish self-centered individuals!

  • ||

    I'm 56 - past menopause, now, too late to bring a new life into the world. We've been married 32 years and talked about it often during the entire marriage. Neither of us had any urge to have children. Sex, without children as a result, was easy from our first weeks together, so why have children? We were also poor or very low middle class most of those years and were lucky to make it through the endless spells of job insecurity. Even in our middle years job security is a constant issue because of the modern economic trends we have no control over, what so ever.
    I think what is missing is the emotional/psychological reasons behind our decisions. The late 20th. century and this present time have not imbued my generation with a sense of hope about the future of mankind. I grew up believing I would die in a nuclear world war.. why bring a child in the world just to become nuclear fallout someday? Also,These environmental scare tactics of the Left are nothing new - I read most of it first in the mid-60's while still in H.S. - there has been, in my lifetime, an almost constant drumbeat of end-of-the-world predictions and not always from the new agers and the religious right,either - now, the scientists have discovered that predicting the end of the world - SELLS. Hollywood and publishing always knew that - now science is using the same fact to call for new investment in technology or just new research.

    You may say that such things have little to do with the decision to have/not have children ... but, as I said, the drumbeat has been constant in my lifetime. This article is a perfect example of what I mean. Just read the 'population time bomb' books of the past. Now they are telling us that our population is dropping too rapidly. Same thing that they did with the environment.. first, it was cooling down, now it is heating up.

  • TallDave||

    instead ask why people are choosing to have fewer children?

    Because kids are a huge drain of time and resources. Yes, yes, wonderfully fufilling, etc. Still a huge time/money sink.

    After all, voluntary childlessness seems to violate the Darwinian premise that our genes dispose us, like all other creatures, to try to reproduce.

    Evolution makes us want SEX, not children. Thankfully, we've severed the link.

  • ||

    There is soemthing hard to explain that is deeply satisfying in a genetic way about your own children.

    Think of how good, how right, sex felt the first time. That's the same feeling children give you when things are going OK.

  • ||

    Perhaps, in the US at least, women are afraid of being left holding the bag alone, and men are afraid of being raped in court.

  • ||

    should change name of magazine from reason to narcissistic hedonists. how is a childlessness reason? truly the word reason is taking a severe pounding if one can use it to advance one of the most fundamentally idiotic cultural decisions.

  • Bunny||

    Why do so many parents assume that a child-free person is selfish?

    Why is it selfish of me to decide that leaving more space for other people's children is more important than having a child to depend upon and drain the resources of once I reach retirement age?

    I don't dislike children, although I do find them difficult with regards to inappropriate behaviour etc, but that's just kids; natures little troublemakers.

    However, whilst the women in my family are all breeders (high fertility, puberty at age 10, menopause around 65), we also all have an alarmingly high miscarriage rate (my great grandmother, mother of 12 that lived, had more miscarriages than live births). In addition, my partner has medical issues stemming from years of childhood surgery that mean actually getting me pregnant would be very hard work. Neither of us is on a high income, and these days not only do most adults not earn a living wage, but the resources required to give a child a life they would want are greater (my 11 year old cousin has an IPOD nano, 3 players for it, her own PC, her own TV and DVD player, the latest fashions, etc... I'm only in my 20's but when I was a kid having my own ROOM made me feel affluent). Add in the pressure put on children in school and throughout their lives, the alarming rates of childhood anorexia, terrorism, global warming, the housing crisis here at home, the ridiculous consumption rates of most Westerners...

    Why would I, firstly, want to bring a child into a world like that? Why would I, secondly, want to increase the already straining population instead of, should I choose children after all, adopting a child that already exists and needs love? Is my DNA that precious?

    All of that, plus the fact that having children, like marriage, is not high on my list of priorities, and I can't help but feel the best thing I could do is opt out of breeding and instead be the cool auntie for all my friend's children. Because, regardless of the various things Tom up there has said, most child-free people I know spend most of their disposable income on ALL the children they know- instead of buying for 2 of my own, I have my 5 younger cousins, 2 younger sisters, 2 genetic nieces, and about 8 or 9 children of friends that call me "auntie". That's a LOT of Christmas presents. Plus babysitting, daytrips, school holiday visits...

    Where's the selfishness in all of that?

  • ||

    Interesting comments from the "childless"

    As a single mom, I absolutely detested raising my kids SOMETIMES. It was difficult, and the teenage years were awful, BUT... that being said, I would do it all over again! Seeing them grow up and seeing all of their accomplishments and contributions to society has made me very proud. It is NEVER easy raising a child for so many reasons, but it is very rewarding in the end. Having and raising children is a Selfless act. Being loved and loving someone unconditionally is worth everything. Also, being poor from the expense of it all is not that bad. We were poor but happy and I would't trade any of it for all the money in the world. And this is coming from a woman who said she would NEVER have kids. Well... they were both "accidents" which I decided to "keep" and have never regretted that decision!

    I now have two beautiful Grandchildren and THAT is what makes having children worthwhile. Being a grandma is the most wonderful experience of my entire life. I love those babies so much I would lay my life down for theirs any day.

  • special K||

    Ahem. I prefer the term "child-free" to "childless".

  • flighty||

    What's surprisingly unsaid here is the macro-economic reasons that there is a downturn in child births. Agricultural economies (especially small-scale locally owned farms) need children and growing populations. Children were the best source of free labor on farms. Children and family were an economic asset.

    Industrial economies do not NEED populations and large numbers of children. In industrial economies children COST money rather than help PROVIDE money. Plus when you consider the effects of the automation of industrial society, the demand for people decreases even further.

    I think this is over all a good thing because only people who really want children should have them. The decrease is the result or reaching an economic level. It is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Curious||

    Wasn't there an article on how Kenya's birthrate dropped compared to other African countries because they reasched a certain GDP level?

  • ||

    people "assume" that childless narcissists in a consumerist society are selfish because, THEY ARE SELFISH.

    "the children are our future."

  • ||

    my post got cutoff, thats not very fun. oh well. short end of stick. the people who explain their narcissism to the backdrop of some dystopian future...no one intelligent believes you. if you grasped any perspective at all you'd realize that children raised right now in the western world have it better, are healthier, are more educated, have more options and live longer better lives than any children at anytime in the history of all humanity. if you then complain that you are going to "overpopulate" the earth by having a kid then may I suggest that the world is in essence demographically democratic. the drivers of population growth won't be narcissistic worrymongers like you but instead the deeply religious and the rural poor.

    so again, you are purely selfish. go buy yourself a big TV.

  • L.J. Williamson||

    "However, demographic data are undercutting the notion that there is some kind of sociobiological nurturing imperative ... As evidence, he pointed to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, where 30 percent of women are childless..."

    This is "evidence"? What are the 70 percent of women who ARE having children, chopped liver?

    The tagline about "we should simmer down and let people who don't want kids make their own decisions about family size" makes me suspect that the author might be troubled by pesky in-laws who want grandbabies and is outing his angst on the page. Ahem, which region is it exactly that we're referring to where people aren't being allowed to make their own decisions about family size AND are reading Reason Magazine?

    Happiness doesn't result from parenthood or childlessness; it results from having freedom of choice. It's unfortunate that the author feels threatened by some imaginary procreation gestapo, but please rest assured that it doesn't actually exist.

  • ||

    L.J. Williamson, the procreation gestapo just posted right above you - read joe's comments.

    And joe, I don't use the dystopian future doomsday scenarios as an "excuse" to not have kids, because I don't believe they are true and I don't feel that I have to provide an excuse for not having kids in the first place. I'm not having kids because I simply have no interest in them and because there are other things I want to do with my life instead. (Big TV, whatever. Most of the parents I know have those too - duh.)

    People who have kids (at the least the ones who have them in a manner that involves planning and foresight) presumably have kids because they ARE interested in them and because parenthood is something they want to do with their lives. How are their reasons for having children any less selfish than my reasons for not having them? Aren't we all just doing what makes us happy in the end?

    Put another way, is anything bad going to happen because I don't have kids? Who is suffering ill effects because of it? Do you believe that stuff the Demographic Winter people are saying? Because talk about a bad case of dystopian future paranoia! You have to be kidding me.

  • ||

    people who have children contribute to the future of humanity. people don't dont...well...don't. because of statistical insignificance it would hard to say anything bad is happening because YOU don't have children. but in a societal way not having kids is suicide. literal suicide. if there is anything valuable to you about your morals, your way of life, your feelings about truth, honor, justice, the only way any of that survives is through teaching children.

    certainly though if its all a narcissistic screwfest and you spend time thinking about partying or buying things famous people wear then maybe all that doesn't matter. and one could even make a case that humanity shouldn't pass on your morals, as your morals are suicidal, shallow and inferior.

    and if I was the "gestapo" instead of merely someone who disagrees with the vanity and naivete of your insidiously hollow arguments wouldn't I like arrest you? or beat you? or something? it seems being the gestapo implies more than making fun of your arguments.

  • ||

    also as an aside people making the economics argument are similarly naive. the industrialized world, or at the very least europe and america are right now importing millions of people every year. the very existence of the welfare state will probably require either a return to sustainable birthrates or continued mass immigration so the population is kept young enough to pay for the entitlement programs of the old.

    the industrialized world hasn't stopped needing children, they've just stopped making them.

  • Chad Brick||

    Pirate Jo: If you do not have kids, nothing changes. You are one of 6.5 billion and what you do individually doesn't mean squat. The problem, of course, is what happens when lots of people make the same decision as you - we go extinct. If you don't what the problem is with human extinction, we have little to dicuss.

    We have a moral obligation to not only leave a healthy, functional planet to the next generation, but also to create that next generation. If you are unwilling to do your part directly, then you should be willing to fork over enough cash in order to pay someone else to do your share for you. All nations should target population stablization, and nations that are below that target should heavily subsidize the rearing of children until the target is reached.

  • ||

    "the very existence of the welfare state will probably require either a return to sustainable birthrates or continued mass immigration so the population is kept young enough to pay for the entitlement programs of the old"

    Pretty good argument to get rid of the welfare state and entitlement programs, in my view.

    So are you and/or Chad Brick suggesting that if a lot of people don't have kids, the human race would die out? Dropping from 6.5 billion to 4 billion is a significant decrease, but certainly doesn't look like a die-out to me.

    Saying that people who don't have children don't contribute to the future of humanity is just silly. What about people who invent things or develop cures? What about people who churn out half a dozen children who aren't capable of doing much besides pick their own noses? There are ways to contribute to humanity besides simply adding to its numbers.

    "narcissistic screwfest and you spend time thinking about partying or buying things famous people wear ... your morals are suicidal, shallow and inferior" etc. etc. says more about you than it does me. Give critical thinking a try, joe - i.e. demonstrate HOW it's narcissistic to not have kids. All you've accomplished here is name-calling.

  • ||

    "If you are unwilling to do your part directly, then you should be willing to fork over enough cash in order to pay someone else to do your share for you."

    Hey, this guy is trying to get me to pay someone to have sex with him!

  • ||

    I'm always shocked by how many people complain about the "drudgery" of child rearing. That may be true for years 0-2.5 but in my experience 2.5 to 10 are awesome. The amount of time I truly have fun with my kids far outweighs the occasional irittant. But then I'm immature and have always found most adults to be boring anal retentives. Generally my conversations with kids are far more stimulating than conversations with grown-ups. Typical grown-up topics - real-estate, sports teams, golf, home improvement project, what I did on my last cliched vacation. Typical kid topics - Star Wars, weaponry through the ages, animals, space travel, etc. Sue me, I'd rather hang with the kids most of the time.

  • ||

    I have most certainly made numerous arguments as to the nature of the consumerist narcissism. you can't handwave away what I have written and chalk it up as an argument.

    as for people who produce half a dozen children and can't pick their own noses, they are contributing a future of people who can't pick their own noses. obviously. whereas your incredibly competent and thoughtful self will simply die out. one would imagine if this scenario played out that nose picking would become in great demand and thoughtful commentators on the value of social suicide would be somewhat more lacking.

    about the entitlement programs, I am not a fan either. but if you think a bunch of old childless first world people are going to impoverish themselves in a democracy you are beyond delusional. infact I imagine people very much like you could be sucking very desperately at the welfare trough, as with no children to support you in your dotage.

  • ||

    "I imagine people very much like you could be sucking very desperately at the welfare trough, as with no children to support you in your dotage."

    First, you assume that children (and not welfare programs) support aging parents in their dotage. It is not my observation that the people on welfare are childless - quite the contrary. You are also ignoring the positive financial effect of not having children. The money I save by not having kids will make me MORE able to support myself in my old age, not less.

    I have not seen any of your other comments about consumerist narcissism. What does thinking that your purse SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT YOU AS A PERSON have to do with whether you want kids or not? Plenty of superficial people have kids, and so do plenty of down-to-earth people. The same goes for those who don't have kids.

  • ||

    Noticed that most of the people posting here sound....male?

    Speaking as a childless person of the female persuasion, you can also add to the mix a society that doesn't think that parenting is worth that much and certainly doesn't think it's worth that much when a woman is doing it.

    First you get the social pressure to pair off, then you get the social pressure to marry, then you get the social pressure to have kids, because "it's expected." The fact that those of us in a high-level career then suffer the risks of being automatically considered "not serious about her work" and automatically shuffled over to The Mommy Track is not considered a problem.

    When I can have and raise a child without it automatically calling into judgement my intelligence, my devotion to my career, and my IQ, then I might be interested. Otherwise, no go. The risk is too high.

  • ||

    children are far more effective. to replace what having 3 kids can do for you in old age is about 120 grand a year right now. and its simply untrue that childless people save more anyway. like I've repeated numerous time, the childless tend to be consumerist narcissists. they spend their money, live in the now baby! have your fun, buy your big TV. people with children tend to have a much larger appreciation for the future, for their place in it.

    as for anecdotes either way, yes yes we could drop anecdotes on each other until you died and then my kids could laugh at your tombstone. the reality of the situation is that while someone who has a prince albert piercing may actually be a thoughtful federal judge with 6 kids and a nice house, the chances are more likely he's not. same with the childless. the atmosphere that creates the attitudes displayed by the author and the people in this thread isn't one of understanding of values or morality or the future of humanity. its one of deep narcissism in an incredibly decadent era of humanity. the mere fact that a magazine calling itself reason would advance this idea is probably a sign of approaching armageddon.

  • ||

    Joe--were you the main caregiver for your children? If not, then the major brunt of the burden fell on someone else--probably their mother. Health effects of pregnancy. Effects on career. Effects on income-earning potential. Assumption of risk (that the father isn't going to walk out leaving her holding the baby.) Realization that if something goes turtle, the probability is high that the responsibility for "dealing with it" will be shelved off on the female parent.

    A lot of women are now looking at the sacrifices and risk they are expected to handle by becoming mothers (and raising the kids) and are saying: "no, it's not worth it."

    It's very easy to talk about the "selfishness of those who don't have kids" when you actually haven't paid the full burden.

  • ||

    Well then, joe, you tell me what I should do. You might have to take my word for it that I'm not a consumerist narcissist, since you don't actually know me. But if it helps, I live very modestly, drive my cars for twenty years, and never carry a balance on my credit card. I have always worked hard - sometimes two jobs - and have saved money. It is almost certainly safe to say that at this point in life I have more money than I'd have if I'd had kids. But hey, maybe you're right, and dropping six figures on raising a kid would be worth forty grand a year in the future, who knows. Maybe it comes out even. A lot depends on the kid, don't you think? They do tend to develop minds and plans of their own.

    But the fact is, I simply have no interest in having kids. And it's not because I'm all high-powered about my career, and I can tell you right now it's not about the money. The desire simply isn't there. I only have enough interest in kids that I enjoy my boyfriend's niece when I see her twice a month, and that's it. (I've never been interested in being an airline pilot either, but no one seems to be concerned that the world will run out of airline pilots because of it.)

    Do you think there's some important, essential thing missing from people who just don't dig kids that much? In your perfect world, should I really focus hard on changing that, and try to convince myself that the passion is there, and have kids out of some sense of duty? And a duty to who? Like, I owe the world my genes, or something? Why not settle for a big fat hunk of my paycheck, like Chad is suggesting? Then again, you don't sound like a socialist, advocating the sacrifice of the individual for the sake of the community.

    Tell me my course of action, o wise leader! Surely you weren't going to merely sit there and mull over the impending armageddon, whilst criticizing those with dystopian future doomsday scenarios?

  • Bananaphone||

    Please stop feeding Joe the Troll.

    I've never regretted my choice to not have children. I know that there are so many other parents out there that enjoy their children and who would be better parents than I. I'll happily continue to help educate their little treasures.

    Unfortunately, there is still a presumption that there is something wrong with those of us who choose a child-free life. Everything from mom applying the "you're killing the family bloodline" pressure to acquaintances who apologize when I tell them I have no children. I do with that would end: there is nothing wrong with not having children, just as there is nothing wrong with having ten.

  • bananaphone||

    with = wish

  • ||

    I would not describe myself or my wife as the main caregiver. and yes men running out is, as always, an issue. certainly marriage is crumbling among the lower classes which is contributing to the lack of children. all your concerns are real and I feel them. I suppose if you wanted to consider me more in your corner you can imagine how poorly I would think of the men in the situations you describe.

    I would point out though that children are still largely effective investments. and that people who don't have them do worse in saving for the future, not better. they also never acquire the same familial safety net that is afforded to parents. not to mention of course the life satisfaction of, as they say, "teaching your children and watching them grow."

  • ||

    pirate jo:

    re-read your post. where in there is anything that one might expect to find on a place called "reason.com." thats all emotional pleas. of course if you don't want kids you don't have to have kids. you could also collect welfare checks and masturbate to the discovery channel. I would say in both cases that the choice is yours, it is merely a morally inferior choice.

    now if I step back I can appreciate the self correcting nature of the narcissists who "just don't feel like it." as if life was something to be approached with the attitude of a girl in high school. but since this thread isn't much about stepping back I feel it necessary to point out the vapidness of the childless argument.

  • ||

    "I doubt that the 'demographic winter' portends economic collapse or social deterioration, but let us set that aside for this column, and instead ask why people are choosing to have fewer children?"

    Translation: Setting aside the main two arguments supporting the normative underpinnings of the "demographic winter" thesis, let's discuss the merits of the "demographic winter" thesis.

    What remarkable reason.

  • ||

    Joe--Aiming for the happy ideal that you will die in your 80s cared by a loving family and surrounded by your grandchildren is just as much of a crapshot as any other action of life. I've also seen enough people shoved into a nursing home to doubt that having children inoculates you against that.

    I might also point out that having kids in order to have a support system later on is just as "selfish" a decision as what you have accused the childless of being.

    Look--I don't mind that people have kids. I willingly pay property taxes that go to pay for schools that I personally never benefit from. I go along with the tax exemptions that people get for having children.

    So in light of all this, and in light of standard libertarian ethics, why can't the childless be left alone to dree their own weird? Why must we be accused of being "selfish", "degenerate", "not contributing!" and all the other epithets written above? Not only we can't be childless; we're expected to feel guilty about it as well?

  • ||

    "modernity essentially transforms children from capital goods that produce family income into consumption items"

    So the meme propagates. I even saw the saw "worked on the farm" somewhere down the comment list. Something widely believed to be true but without any basis in fact.

    I have never seen any evidence that people from earlier times ever considered children assets. I have read a number of personal journals from C18 and C19, and uniformly they present children as inevitable, a duty, sometimes a burden, sometimes a joy. Never an asset.

    I challenge all and any to provide a contradicting fact. Opinions don't count.

  • ||

    grumpy realist, it really doesn't matter to joe whether children provide a financial benefit or not. It's a moral issue for him. He thinks we all have an obligation to have kids, and spending your life doing anything else is morally inferior. If you don't have kids, you aren't doing your duty, and that's really the end of it as far as he's concerned. You have hit bedrock.

  • ||

    I recently dated a woman of 50 who had never had kids. She would go on and on about my "limitations" as a potential partner due to my "encumbrances" and "tethers" at home. I finally shut her up by asking point blank, "Who would care if you died tomorrow?" She thought for a moment and then burst into tears.

    How'd the rest of the date go???

  • jomama||

    I love kids...as long as they belong to someone
    else.

    A recent study showed male 'children' being
    dependent until and average of 38 years of age,
    females til age 32.

    Who in their right mind would put up with that?

  • ||

    Basically there are those who enjoy children and those who don't. Period. I don't hate them, but I like having peace and quiet in my home and I am having enough trouble trying to figure out how I will pay off my student loans, buy a house and retire. To have to pay for children would make me financially insolvent. I never have much money left over at the end of the month, but what I do have left over is MINE to do with what I like. Most people think that people without children don't want them because they are all selfish people who are rich and take exotic vacations. most of us I think just like to go see a foreign film maybe, or read a book in the peace and quiet of our own home. I like to read and take driving trips with my boyfriend on a moments notice.

    Most of the choices that I make are made by a simple cost/benefit analysis. Which job to take, which car to buy, which apartment to rent, etc...The joy that children might provide, in my opinion is not worth the cost you have to incur to care for, educate and entertain them.

    I think the parents need to stop being so self-righteous and smug. It just makes us childfree folks defensive. Don't be surprised when you are greeted with hostility from a group of people that you constantly insult simply because they make different choices than you. Our main problem with parents is that many of them expect everyone else to put their lives on hold just because you had a baby. Or work extra hours, while you get to take all the time off you want for things involving your kids. What angers me mostly is the view that if you spend your spare time caring for children, your time is more valuable than mine. It's not. My time spent reading in a cafe is just as valuable as yours when you are cheering for your child when she scores that winning goal at the soccer game.

  • Caporino||

    What's a "happiness researcher"?

  • Caporino||

    "Indeed, looking after the kids appears to be only slightly more pleasant than doing housework," asserts Gilbert in his bestselling, Stumbling on Happiness (2006).

    Me, I'd rather do housework than look after kids.

  • ||

    > Then again, it's really hard to top, "I love > you, daddy. I wanna be just like you"

    It's also hard to top "Hello, this is the police. Your 17-year-old son was driving drunk and just killed two people [in a vehicle in your name], please come down to the station."

    > But the core of childrearing is the denial
    > of self to the needs of others

    Wrong. That may be the core of PROPER childrearing, but to assume that simply giving birth or siring an heir instantly makes one "unselfish" is as absurd as saying that not having progeny maens one is "selfish". I do dozens of hours a week of volunteer work for nonprofits. Who are the vast majority of my co-volunteers? People withouth kids, because once they have kids, they have to stop working for the benefit of *many* to concentrate all of their efforts on only those people who share their DNA. Tell me who's more "selfish" now?

    And for real "selflessness", let's go to the videotape of crazed mothers getting into fistfights on Black Friday when there is a limited supply of [whatever this year's hot fad toy is]. I know childless people who line up to hang out at the stores on that day simply to laugh at the insanity! And laugh, they do.

    > I wonder how much of an effect that gays
    > --no longer expected to pump out kids like
    > everyone else, at least in the West--have
    > had on this.

    I guess you have not heard of the "Gayby Boom" then. Believe me, the gay community is seeing tons of gay dads and lesbian moms (there are many ways this happens--through adoption, surrogacy, sperm donation, or raising kids from a previous marriage) and the "gay parents" can be every buit as self-righteous towards gay non-parents as the heteros. What used to be funky, interesting gay neighborhoods are being overrun with strollers and Baby Gaps.

    > What's the primary lesson that each parent
    > learns? That the sun doesn't revolve around > us.

    Well, a lot of us knew this already, without "needing" to have kids to learn it. And, plenty of parents DO need to learn the corrolary: The sun does not revolve around YOUR KIDS!

    > Standard disclaimer: People should have as
    > many children as they want.

    I would add "and can afford to properly raise."

    > Government should not subsidize the having
    > or not having of children.

    Amen to that. Don't you love how parents, already getting $1000 tax credits for each kid, are now getting and EXTRA $300 a pop when they pay FAR less in taxes than non-parents, in addition to using more of the very things taxes pay for (Schools, parks, etc)?! I really have NO qualms with people having as many kids as they want, IF a) they are well-behaved and b) they aren't getting government paerks (aka "welfare") in the from of "child tax credits". Funny how our parents managed to raise us just fine without the extra entitlement, but now all the parents seem to do is scream to make it higher.

    > You childless folks--don't miss it

    Do you often go up to vegetarians and say "Filet mignon...don't miss it!" ? Why are you so concerned with others' family lives?

    > The U.S. in particular can't seem to decide > if having children is a social good and thus > deserving of public support

    Parents get PLENTY of social support! See above. And that's not counting paid paternity leave (no limit on how often this is taken, and often NO lapse in seniority/promotability for having spent six months at home compared to their coworker who was doing his job and hers, too). Etc.

    > In a few generations everyone will be
    > descended from people who actually do want
    > children, or who are too stupid to practice > contraception.

    Don't forget those whom nature never intended to reproduce, but thanks to "miracle" fertility "cures", even people with fucked-up genes can pass on their biological issues to new generations!

    > I'm thinking they will leave a lot of money > to charities and to other people's kids, so > how could that be a bad thing? When I die
    > without reproducing, I'll also be freeing up > a job for someone else's kid.

    Exactly. Why should someone be so concerned that I breed, when it would just mean more kids competing with their own for "Student of the week", Valedictorian, scholarships, and later, jobs and potential mates. Childless people are actually making the competition LESS for their own kids, and they STILL aren't happy!

  • ||

    > should change name of magazine from reason
    > to narcissistic hedonists. how is a
    > childlessness reason?

    Joe the troll, how is having children you are not prepared (financially, mentally, tempermentally, whichever) to raise "reason"? Are you supporting the Communist "Breed for the Motherland" mantra where A certain dictator with the initial A.H. actually paid mothers a certain amount of money for every child they had over a certain number? Or the Romanian LAW that REQUIRED having at least 4 children per family (oops, don't pay any attention to those impoverished Romanian orphanages, folks, crammed full of babies their parents weren't able to raise but HAD to give birth to...).

    > but in a societal way not having kids is
    > suicide. literal suicide

    First, please look up the definition of "literal". Second, please learn to use the Shift key so your writing doesn't look like the text messages of an emo 11-year-old.

    It's only "societal suicide" if MAJOR numbers of people forego reproducing, and that's never going to happen. You're using the same tired, strawman argument that implies "one person doing X means the whole world is going to do X OMG OMG OMG DANGER!!" The premise of the main article is that we could do with FAR fewer people on this planet, not ZERO.

    Besides, many anthorpological sources say that having childless adults in a "tribe" is actually better for the future generations than if everyone breeds--it gives a higher adult-to-kid ratio, leaves more adults to take care of the children (which they wouldn't be able to do if they were all looking after their own children), allows a "backup" if a mother or father dies, etc. There is even speculation that this is why the gene for homosexuality has not been "bred out" of our species; because having nonreproducing adults in a colony is beneficial in a societal way for the offspring of those who do reproduce, moreso than when the whole colony all has their own brood to attend to.

  • ||

    " ... because having nonreproducing adults in a colony is beneficial in a societal way for the offspring of those who do reproduce, moreso than when the whole colony all has their own brood to attend to."

    Think about all the people paying property taxes toward schools, without producing children to take up the seats.

  • Ben||

    I didn't have kids. Not because I couldn't raise them, not because I could not afford them, not because I do not like them, not because I didn't have fertile partners, not because I was concerned about adding to the population load, but for one reason only:

    Ever since I was a teenager, in the 60's, the world has been getting harsher, meaner, the liberties that American citizens once took for granted have mostly been taken from them, nuclear weapons lurk in the dark cavities below us, and in fact, the only advances I have seen have been technological, which I appreciate, but which do not in any way make the world, in my opinion, a reasonable place to create and raise children.

    Now I'm in my fifties, and looking back, I'm content with that decision. Today, Hillary and her pack of drones think their village is supposed to control the upbringing of other people's children; the government has decided what they can and cannot be taught; surveillance is ubiquitous, satellites have turned their glassy eyes inward, cameras appear on more street corners every day, and one out of 100 Americans languish in jail, about half of them for "crimes" of a consensual or personal nature. Teenagers go to jail for having sex with each other -- or with adults. The social order has turned into social insanity.

    So.... no. I sit at home, create music, write software, practice martial arts and weapons arts, and tend my cats. And wait for someone to do something really stupid. The odds favor it; history tells us it is all but inevitable. The amazing thing from my perspective is that it hasn't happened yet.

    So you folks that have had kids, I wish you the best, but frankly, I expect the worst.

  • ||

    Wow, what a depressing article and even more depressing conversation. (Full disclosure: I am married and have children.) A few remarks:

    1. The amount and vitriolic character of the comments of those who claim to dislike children make me wonder whether they are grateful that the adults in their world didn't have similar feelings about them. (Or perhaps they did?)

    2. While I agree that the extinction argument for childbearing and rearing is a silly one, unless there was some real chance that everyone would stop having children, it seems equally silly to say that the childless owe no debt to those who *do* choose to have children. After all, it's the fact that they *do* have children that means that *your* childlessness will *not* lead to extinction.

    3. I find it difficult to understand the logic--or the humanity--of a statement like this, written by Childfree Therese: "My time spent reading in a cafe is just as valuable as yours when you are cheering for your child when she scores that winning goal at the soccer game." I am hard pressed to think of any credible moral or ethical account, on which it would be plausible to say that that personal entertainment is as valuable an activity as helping another human being develop into a full, flourishing person.

    4. There seems to me to be an overly hedonic--almost Benthamite conception of happiness at work here--and I would like to suggest that on a richer account, say one like Aristotle's, in which to be happy is not merely to be satisfied but also to flourish in all of one's human capacities, childrearing and raising would likely count as one of the most valuable activities a human being can engage in.

    Hardly knockdown arguments, but just my 2 cents worth.

    --Dan K.

  • ||

    I like kids and all, but if parenting would make me into a self-centered a-hole like Tom then forget it

  • ||

    What I notice about these "to breed or not to breed" article comments is that the people with kids and those without seem to be obsessed with converting each other to the "correct way". Why this obsession to "convert" others? I really do not understand this compulsion (the desire to "convert", in general, is an obsessive-compulsive behavioral pattern).

    What's wrong with live and let live? Aren't we all supposed to be libertarians here? Survey after survey show that the people who wanted to have kids and had them and the people who did not want kids and who did not have them usually end up being equally happy. It is the people who wanted kids but could not have them and the people who did not want kids but somehow ended up with them who end up be equally most unhappy.

    Ron Bailey has written extensively about the coming anti-aging biotechnological revolution (which I consider to be inevitable, historically speaking). I'm surprised no one here has put two and two together and realized the irony that the expected date of this impending demographic winter (around 2050) coincides with anticipated developments of effective anti-aging medical technology (SENS and its derivatives).

    I think SENS will cancel out the demographic winter.

  • ||

    This article is right-on! As a voluntarily childless woman, I have long suspected the truth: that all those moms are not really as happy with their little brats as they would like to think. They merely delude themselves into believing that they *must* consider child-bearing to be a fulfilling activity because to recognize the truth (that having children completely ruins one's life in almost every manner) would be far too depressing to contemplate.

    Ultimately, the human animal is wired to be selfish...to engage in an 18yr+ child-raising endeavor requires one to set aside their own quite normal sense of selfishness hence resulting in the parent being miserable and unhappy (but of course never willing to admit such a socially unacceptable sentiment, even to themselves.)

    I also believe that when childed people hurl insults and derogatory accusations about our "empty lives" towards we the childless, that this behavior stems truly from jealousy towards those of who can sleep as late as we like on the weekends, spend our money on ourselves, entertain ourselves via travel or local outings without consideration towards the cost and expense of child care, and engage in carnal relations upon the kitchen table without fear of interruption from little people.

  • ||

    As I mentioned before, I think SENS and related biotechnological cures for aging is going to make these demographic winter scenarios obsolete. In the meantime, perhaps both the "childed" and the "childless" should show more civility towards each other in these discussions. There is no need for rudeness.

  • economist||

    We still need these childed people. After all, all of us had parents who put up with us for 16+ years.

  • Janet Baker||

    The author of this post 'doubts that the birthrate has an effect on economics but let's discuss it anyway'? The only reason to discuss it is if it does have an effect on economics, and the most elementary analysis of the components of economics, production and consumption, are overwhelmingly convincing that birthrate is the single most important element in the cycle! We didn't pay any special attention to it before because this is the first time humans have been able to short-circuit it. All the other elements are make-ups when birthrates fail! So the childless author had best focus on the fact that he has a responsibility both to the past and to the future instead of merely to himself and his own pleasure. He had best focus on what it means to be human, because he seems to have forgotten that we should do very few things for pleasure, and very many things because we owe it to others. How does he think he got an alphabet to write about his lifestyle? How does he think he got electricity to power his machines? Every time it was someone doing a little more than what 'feels good' because they bought into a much larger vision, one of service. We don't have kids because we like them, we have them because God, quite the economist, said, 'Go forth and multiply,' and thereby sent us on our journey to the stars. It's not time to stop now! By the way, immigration is not going to continually make up the gap, because the immigrating populations aren't sufficiently educated to take over many jobs that are essential to our society, and by the time they get sufficiently educated, they stop reproducing. It's time for the middle class to step up!

  • JM||

    "We don't have kids because we like them, we have them because God, quite the economist, said"

    Surely you jest. Never met this God fella you speak of but if he implies that people who don't LIKE children ought to be given the task of raising and caring for them then obviously he is an idiot.

  • ||

    Tom. Nice to hear you are happy about having kids, well you should, because you chose to have them.

    When you go home to a jungle filled with noice, someone who used to look like your wife, stock of bills. I go home to quiet house with no worries in the world. When you enjoy your kids soccer game, I dont really feel like missing out at all, I think enjoying a nice distant beach is just as okey.

    There are so many morons who become parents, that there are no problems to find a kid to matter for, even for the childfree.

  • Yousei||

    I'm being childless by choice, and there is a lot of reason why I wouldn't want to have kids.
    1. Children require a lot of love, patience, devotion and responsibility - something that not all of us have. In my opinion, only people who are really ready for the consequences of having a child should be parents. There are too many irresponsible parents out there (the ones who don't treat their own kids seriously or just those who don't really love their offspring), and I find it much more dreadful, bitter and generally revolting than being childfree.
    2. Yes, it's all about money as well. Nowadays, raising a child takes up a lot of money from your pockets, and I've seen a lot of situations when the parents, being poor but having kids, started to blame their own teenage kids for being dependent upon them. That's outright sick IMO.
    3. I guess, I'd just prefer reaching my goals and dreams than devoting my time to people who most likely won't even understand me. My dad, for instance, wanted to travel to Africa - but he got me and now he's too burdened with work and too old for traveling anywhere. So long, dreams.
    4. Loving someone OTHER than kids. I'd rather prefer devoting all my time to my husband, being a good partner for him and caring about him as much as I can. That's a motivation too, don't you think?
    I've seen a whole lot of families where the husband and the wife were arguing over their kids all day and night long. Not amusing at all.

    And I guess I'd really like to live as I want and let others stick to their choices. Oh, and maybe I'll draw a piece of art that will become famous and will go to a museum, or become an art teacher. So, I guess, childless people contribute to humanity as much as the ones with the children do (Leonardo da Vinci, Freddie Mercury, Tchaikovsky, anyone?).

  • unhappy||

    I totally agree with your post. Also the fact that your Dad was not able to live his dreams of traveling to Africa is another reason so many marriages fail because the stress of money & not being able to live your dreams because you have kids is a big reason for divorces. It's better to live your life for yourself first as when you have kids your dreams are gone & so is your life.

  • unhappy||

    Having kids is hard. People are not having more kids because they are extremely expensive & like others have said, there is no pay, no breaks, little appreciation or recognition. Kids DO make life harder & less time with your husband or wife or yourself, you can't travel or go out when you want & it's 18 years of your life granted you have one kid that you commit of your whole life & dreams to that child alone. I would imagine if people had kids later in life & or if they were rich it wouldn't be so hard or a strain on the parents or marriage. Also if there were more social programs to help families then maybe people would want kids. Parents have to say yes, kids are wonderful because they already had them but if you could see in hindsight probably a lot of people would NOT have kids OR plan it better by getting set up with money, career, house & a stable marriage before having kids.

  • Nike Dunk Low||

    is good

  • K W||

    This perhaps gives way to the idea that people's ultimate goal in life is not "happiness" and is instead more akin to "self-actualization." I may be misled, but one may want to consider that there are things in life that don't make you happy, but are worth doing.

  • ||

    A belated comment for the housework vs. kids debate. Why not kill 2 birds with one stone? My parents were good at finding chores for us to do. When I have kids, I'm going to give them work to do as soon as they can handle it. Why not?

  • Elizabeth||

    This book was written by a childless author. Mr. Gilbert has not had the chance to experience the joy that comes with all the hard work and frustration of being a parent. Only until you truly have children can you really know how truly happy you can be. Being a Mom is the hardest yet the most enjoyable job I've ever had. I believe if Mr. Gilbert had kids, he would not be researching on how happy people are without kids! It's simply not true! Ask any good parent and they will tell you they enjoy parenting.

  • sacs birkin hermes||

    the fertility of second generation Americans drops to the level of longer established Americans.

  • sacs birkin hermes||

    good work

  • Fr. Austin||

    I came across this article a bit late, while studying attitudes towards demographic trends.

    The obvious explanation for the cognitive dissonance in the article ("Why do people say their kids make them so happy, when taking care of their kids ranks so low on the 'fun' scale?") is: while the chore of taking care of your kids is arduous and often unpleasant in the moment, the overall experience of having children, sharing your whole life with them and giving from the absolute depths of yourself to other people, has a surprising effect upon one's sense of peace, tranquility, contentment, happiness and purpose.

    It seems like avoiding these hard things would make for an "happier" life. It makes for a more "happy-go-lucky" life, but, in all the best and most sublime ways, no: in skipping the hardest things, we also skip the opportunities for the most sublime delectations of love and mutual enjoyment.

    How should a celibate clergyman know? A family emergency left me helping my brother raise his three boys: I was often frustrated and irritated. I was often having no fun. For a man used to absolute quiet and contemplative prayer, the greatest struggle was not clubbing them into silence some days! But only in one other situation, do I ever feel anything like the profound elation, of sharing lives - weal and woe - with them. To sum up: individual moments may be more pleasant for people with no cross to bear; but the Cross hides the greatest, holistic pleasure, beneath pains.

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