Fertility

U.S. Fertility Falls to Lowest Rate Ever

The number of children that families choose to have is none of the government's business.

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The country's total fertility rate hit a record low last year, prompting yet another round of calls for the government to do something to encourage Americans to have more babies. But this isn't a sign of a crisis that needs fixing—it's a sign that people have more control over their lives.

The total fertility rate (TFR) is the total number of children likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime, assuming her generation's level of fertility remains unchanged. A TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called replacement-level fertility—that is, the average number of children each woman would need to bear to keep a country's population steady. A sustained TFR below that indicates that the population of a country will eventually begin shrinking.

In 2018, according to the latest vital statistics report from the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate hit 1.728. This was a new low, surpassing the previous record of 1.738, reached back in 1976.

This is part of a larger, global trend toward lower fertility rates. In 1950, no country in the world had a TFR below 2.1 children per woman. Now about half of the world's nations are below replacement. Global TFR was around 5 children per woman in 1960; it's 2.4 now.

As per capita GDP and levels of education rise, the number of children that women choose to have falls. This trend evidently alarms some folks, including the right-wing intellectuals and apparatchiks who have recently gathered under the banner of "national conservatism."

"There are a lot of ways to measure a healthy society," claimed J.D. Vance, author of the bestselling Hillbilly Elegy, at the national conservatives' conference. "But the way that I measure a healthy society—the most important way to measure a healthy society—is whether the American nation is having enough children to replace itself."

John A. Burtka IV, executive director of The American Conservative, wrote a Washington Post op-ed proposing that national conservatives adopt a suite of pro-natalist policies. These "might include paid family leave, increasing the child tax credit, federally funded prenatal and maternal care, reducing or eliminating income tax on families with three or more children, and working toward a society in which a mother or father can support a family on a single income."

Similar aggressive pro-natalist policies in France have apparently managed to raise that country's TFR from its nadir of 1.73 in 1994 all the way up to 1.92 in 2017. That's still below replacement. Evidently, bribing people to have babies goes only so far.

But why should the number of children that parents choose to have be any business of the state's minions? It was only a generation ago that overpopulation alarmist Paul Ehrlich was arguing that a tax penalty of $600 per child should be imposed on families. (This was in 1968, when the U.S. median income stood at $7,700 per household.)

Falling fertility rates are, among other things, an indication that folks are less subject to the vagaries of nature and are now availing themselves of their increasing power to choose the number of children that they wish to have. That's not a crisis. It's a good thing.

 

 

 

NEXT: Conservative Nationalists, Not Immigrants, Are Having Trouble Assimilating in America

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  1. As Koch / Reason libertarians, we should celebrate any decline in fertility rate because it provides another justification for unlimited immigration.

    #USPopulationGrowthShouldComeFromImmigration
    #(AndEveryoneShouldGetFreeBirthControl)

    1. A declining population of humans strikes me as a good thing. There are more than 7 billion of us currently. The world would be a better place with about 1 billion.

      1. “The world would be a better place with about 1 billion.”
        Cite missing and forever will be, since there is no reason to think so other than some romantic fantasy.

  2. “Falling fertility rates are, among other things, an indication that folks are less subject to the vagaries of nature and are now availing themselves of their increasing power to choose the number of children that they wish to have. That’s not a crisis. It’s a good thing.”

    If fertility rates fall below replacement rates for long enough, then it is self-destructive for society and a crisis relative to that society. It is only a good thing if you think that society should not exist.

    1. It is still nobody’s business, including yours and governments’.

      1. You stuoid fcvk, it IS EVERYBODY’s business, including and especially the government.

        It is nobody’s business if A family decides not to have any kids, or have 7.

        It is an indication of grave policy failures and cultural problems in ALL families decide not to have kids.

        Specifically, the problem is that young people have been indoctrinated, in the culture, but also primarily thru Government schools, that “the Planet is Dying”, and our kids will inherit a dystopia, if they are lucky enough to survive, and that Western Culture and white people are evil and racist and illegitimate colonial usurpers, and need replacing.

        That is a (partially) government created problem, and the government sure as shit should be studying it, before we end up like the Dutch or Danes or Japan, with a real dystopia of millions of elderly, and no young adults to support them

        1. Your continued factless assertion does not make it so, and your arguments to buttress your assertion all assume the assertion is true: “grave policy failure”, “cultural problems”.

          Try again.

      2. It is still nobody’s business, including yours and governments’.

        Umm, FICA taxes. And immigration.

        With no immigration, elementary arithmetic says our population will be declining. Also elementary, what does that do to FICA taxes on your own children and grandchildren … as longer life spans have already caused a funding crisis?

        The, also elementary, as these growing tax burdens spread across the planet, you’ll see major economies competing for more immigration .. for both the tax burden and for a workforce large enough to support so many retirees … who are also living longer!

        1. Yes. While I oppose our two main “social insurance” programs, as long as they exist, it is the government’s business. Falling fertility rates, coupled with increased longevity, is why we are in the mess we are in.

    2. Whatever happened to “there is no society, only individuals” in Libertopia? Does invoking a concept you usually dismiss bolster your argument in this instance? If so, how?

      1. Society exists. How strong a claim over individual action it has is debatable. But it is not true that falling fertility rates are an unqualified good and not a potential crisis.

      2. “Whatever happened to “there is no society, only individuals” in Libertopia?”

        Were you born this stupid, or did it take long years of practice?

    3. True. But it depends on how long it goes for. A TFR below 2.1 over 50 years is probably a good thing but over 200 years is probably a bad thing.

      1. It is neither good nor bad. It just is. You may as well judge whether it’s good or bad that little boys no longer wear dresses until they are5 years old.

        1. Do the math! Then, why do you assume immigration will slowly increase, to offset an otherwise shrinking labor force … thus, skyrocketing FICA taxes, and a workforce too small to supply the retirees.

          In other words, your own children and grandchildren would get screwed … or our own Social Security and Medicare

          1. Even if immigration were to increase, we are importing workers with relatively low (read: 3rd world) productivity levels. This will not solve the problem in any way, shape, or form.

            1. Automation is what drives productivity, not a worker’s birthplace, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In Economics, it’s measured by investment per worker, also throughout the Industrial Revolution.

              So where economies have low productivity, it’s because of low investment, and has nothing to do with the workers. Their workers can even be more skilled than so many of ours. (They do more than assembling parts that were created by machines.)

          2. What does immigration have to do with what I wrote? Nothing!

            1. You said it was neither good nor bad. I explained why you’re wrong.

              Immigration is directly related. Obviously, Trump’s immigration “plan” would cause what I described.

              1. Hihn, you should learn to read; it might keep people from recognizing how stupid you are.

    4. Have no worry: according the population experts, after the world’s population peaks at something over ten billion or a bit more in about fifty years or so, it will begin to decrease and eventually end up in the four-to-five billion range. This is, basically, due to economic improvement and it’s effect on everything from health care to perceptions of stability. As nations become more wealthy, their birthrate goes down. Societies will not cease to exist. And, they will all be, in comparison to today’s societies, filthy rich!

      1. And, they will all be, in comparison to today’s societies, filthy rich!

        They’ll largely be food for the relatively sparse Morlocks, but they’ll be filthy rich!

        1. LOL… yeah, but that is a different problem!

  3. The number of children that families choose to have is none of the government’s business.

    I can think of 22 trillion reasons why it is. their. business.

    Now, maybe it shouldn’t be and I don’t think there’s much disagreement on the point, but ignoring 22 trillion reasons is a bit disingenuous.

    1. I don’t think anyone at Reason is ignoring our debt but the debt is not an argument for government involvement in deciding the number of kids people have. Thats basically saying that we need to have more kids to pay for our reckless spending.

      1. Nowhere anywhere in this story or any of the links or the original work of anyone quoted in this story, nor in any of the comments, will you find anyone who says the government should decide for you to have More kids.

        There are plenty who say the opposite

      2. Thats basically saying that we need to have more kids to pay for our reckless spending.

        You realize that, of the myriad of possible future outcomes, the one you’ve posited as necessary or unavoidable is that the debt is unassailable firmament, right?

        Moreover, I made no policy proscriptions. From a simple moral standpoint, agreeing with you that the debt is unassailable, placing the same debt on fewer shoulders is more cruel than the alternative.

        The policies required increased numbers of healthy young people. The policies passed. We may not like it, but it is reality. And fewer children doesn’t make it better.

      3. our debt

        I don’t know about you, but that’s not my debt. I incurred not one penny of it.

        1. As much as I would love this to be true, I doubt any American has not been the beneficiary of Government largesse. Yes, as a citizen, the goverernment (rather you asked them to or not) did spend money on your behalf. I would certainly love for responsible budgeting but to argue that we have no culpability in the debt is disingenuous.

  4. Maybe we don’t need pro-natalist policies, but it would have been nice for Ron to advocate for repealing anti-natalist laws.

    I mean if it’s not the government’s job to increase reproduction, it’s certainly not their job to restrain it.

  5. If it is vital to “fix the climate” for kids and we’re having fewer kids…can’t we call off the environmental hoax now?

    1. Having fewer (or zero) kids is one of the solutions to climate change. Humans are a cancer on fair Gaia

      1. It’s not a solution if you plan on being alive 30 years from now. The only real solution at this point is for the singularity to happen.

  6. The next plank in the Democratic platform will be increased Federal aid to any woman who chooses to have a child, including free medical care for mother and child, free education through college for mother and child, a living wage whether or not the mother chooses to work, and a fully-paid Emotional Support Partner of the mother’s chosen gender identity.

    1. Some European countries have already tried handing out generous benefits to encourage procreation – it seems to have had the opposite effect.

    2. I believe all support paid maternity leave. So in essence it already is.

    3. Given all of these national conservative weirdos that seem to be coming from nowhere, how do you know that stuff won’t be the next plank in the Republican platform.

  7. Hum…the drops and sustained reduced levels coincide with mutli-wave feminism..Hum…Now gender feminists espouse to have a successful divorce and a sperm donor, child support paying “rapist, DV perp”, sorry I get caught up in the PoundMeToo Dworkin-Agenda fraud. Hey the woman who created the ss Ms. Donegan is a gender bigot, a misandrist and gay. All three. Isn’t modern US/Western culture wonderful?

  8. So VERY rate forRon to miss the point.

    But why should the number of children that parents choose to have be any business of the state’s minions?

    FICA taxes! Trump’s anti-immigrant idiocy will totally doom our children and grandchildren with an even more suffocating tax burden.

    With little or no immigration, our population will be declining, which leaves fewer workers to pay future taxes for Social Security and Medicare …. at the same time those taxes are already in crisis, as life spans increase for retirees.

    That’s why it matters, Ron. And there are no viable solutions, as in none … anywhere.

    1. Should be: “So very RARE for Ron to miss the point.”

    2. “FICA taxes! Trump’s anti-immigrant idiocy will totally doom our children and grandchildren with an even more suffocating tax burden.”

      They can just revolt and refuse to pay the taxes. When the people pulling the wagon refuse to keep doing it, the folks who are in trouble are the one’s riding in the wagon – not those who stop pulling it.

      1. You go first. (lol)

        1. I’ll just shoot you first.
          That will lighten the wagon load.

          Besides, you are Hihn and don’t deserve to live anyway.

  9. How is this possible? With the revelation that both men AND women can have babies, shouldn’t we be cranking out more than ever?

  10. “But why should the number of children that parents choose to have be any business of the state’s minions?”

    Because Social Security, Medicare, and the US government are a Ponzi scheme that needs more suckers.

    1. Because Social Security, Medicare, and the US government are a Ponzi scheme that needs more suckers.

      This is *SCIENCE* dammit! You can’t expect a libertarian science reporter to cover such non-science-related issues as part of their science and science-related issues beat.

    2. That’s where immigration comes in.

      1. As long as immigrants pay more than they take out.

  11. I blame the popularity of homosexuality.

    1. From my estimation, it’s lesbians who are cranking out most of the children.

  12. So let’s review:

    1. Free people make free choices.
    2. The results of these free choices produce outcomes that are, in the aggregate, concerning to some people.
    3. Some of these concerned people – let’s call them “progressives” – then want to use the power of the state to coerce, force, “nudge”, or otherwise manipulate individuals to make different choices, ones that will produce outcomes that these progressives can approve.

    Does this sequence of events describe:
    A. Environmentalists wanting to change people’s behavior on their energy consumption habits
    B. Gun-grabbers wanting to change people’s behavior on their firearm ownership habits
    C. Natalist conservatives wanting to change people’s behavior on their reproductive habits
    D. All of the above

    1. You missed the most obvious consequences.
      FICA taxes.
      In a declining population.

      And why do you say it’s “progressives” trying to make matters even worse, with anti-immigration policies that will (obviously) cause a declining population? It’s Trump dooming your own children and grandchildren to far worse tax burdens.

      Left – Right = Zero.

      1. Large numbers of high productivity first world immigrants will solve the problem, but large numbers of low productivity third world immigrants will exacerbate the problem. Which strategy are we pursuing?

        1. The strategy we’re pursuing is the guaranteed failure of severely limiting immigration.

          Productivity is based on investment per worker, not the worker. Because Industrial Revolution.

          1. I believe Trump favors merit based immigration. So, nice falsehood on your part.

            1. Elementary school math! Read the thread first,

              You missed the most obvious consequences.
              FICA taxes.
              In a declining population.

              And why do you say it’s “progressives” trying to make matters even worse, with anti-immigration policies that will (obviously) cause a declining population? It’s Trump dooming your own children and grandchildren to far worse tax burdens.

              Left – Right = Zero.

              1. Non-sequitor

                1. It’s Hihn.

    2. How old are you? (Not a trick question) . It was in the 1990s that Democrats and the press began to openly espouse that the purpose of government was to “nudge” people towards the right choices.

      1. I’ll give you a hint, I voted for Harry Browne in 2000.

        I know that the above three choices are not the only examples, but they are three trending ones now.

  13. “Citizens! Do More Fucking! The Health Of The State Depends On It!”

  14. This trend evidently alarms some folks, including the right-wing intellectuals and apparatchiks who have recently gathered under the banner of “national conservatism.

    When did Buzzfeed infiltrate Reason?

    1. When they hired C.J. Ciaramella. Literally.

  15. When did Buzzfeed infiltrate Reason?

    Elementary school arithmetic. Their policy, and presumably yours, will cause US population to decline, making FICA taxes even worse for your own children and grandchildren.

  16. Government’s real concern is how to keep So-so Security solvent while getting over the hump.

  17. J.D. Vance, bigoted slack-jaw whisperer, is suddenly a right-wing hero (and soon-to-be political candidate running on the backwardness-and-intolerance platform).

    He will lose the culture war, but rake in millions from people who buy their books while waiting for the call-in numbers from catheter, LifeLock, and reverse mortgage commercials.

    1. And all these progressive young people having children will ensure progress will continue indefinitely.

  18. Ask Eurasia what comes after that…

  19. Ask Eurabia what comes after that…

    1. Or the Roman Empire.

  20. “…it’s a sign that people have more control over their lives.”

    “Falling fertility rates are, among other things, an indication that folks are less subject to the vagaries of nature and are now availing themselves of their increasing power to choose the number of children that they wish to have.”

    This is pointless and dubious. Birthrate almost exclusively correlates with material prosperity, with few exceptions. You don’t have to make a case for why it is not a crisis. It is enough to say it’s not the gov’t’s business.

  21. I doubt that anything that leads to less humans is a bad thing. Get back to me with whines about under population if/when humans drop below 1 billion souls on the planet at once. Seriously – it’s like cheering because there’s fewer rats.

    1. Yes, because the late 18th century was a paradise.

  22. Falling birth rates offset by huge immigration sure benefited the Roman Empire.

    1. We talk soldiermedic.

      So what about the Roman Empire means that it needed to continue.

      It did some amazing things yet neither of us would want to live there. Ancient history is full of civilizations rising and falling. That is not a bad thing in itself. I tend to historical positive view. The life of you and I is far better than the average Roman.

      Birth rates. To me it is not a government issue at all. I see it as personal. What is wrong with kiddos today? They don’t take the risks and responsibility. Better to have an Audi than a baby.

      1. Did I say it was the government’s job to promote fertility? My qualm is with the claim that falling birth rates are nothing to worry about. Also, that we can easily make up for any detriment by mass immigration. My example for the Roman Empire isn’t that it was great but that one of the leading causes of its decline was a falling birth rate among Romans and increased immigration to Rome to offset this. This was especially problematic in regards to the Legions, who once were required to be Roman by birth, but as birth rates decreased Rome increasingly relied on foreign troops. Eventually the huge number of immigrants and foreign troops resulted in a loss of Roman identity and the downfall of the Empire. Falling birth rates, especially in the west, are likely to be more detrimental then Bailey is willing to concede. While government intervention is not needed (other than maybe for the government to rethink some programs, laws and regulations that punish people for having kids or make having kids difficult).

  23. Quit cutting out and killing the unborn.
    Quit listening to feminists.
    Quit listening to doomsayers.
    Quit teaching and cultivating self-hatred.
    Quit telling women they are men.

    1. So on a libertarian website you are telling others what to listen to, teach, and tell others what to do.

  24. So dumb Ron.

    First, if you look at polls women and men both say they WANT to have more kids than they actually can… The state of the economy, which really isn’t great when one looks at stagnant wages and labor force participation, is probably a big part of this.

    Also, indoctrination. Women are told first off that they should try to compete with men, and not even bother to have kids, as if this is a good thing. They’re ALSO told if you want to do it, get your career going first! You can always have kids later… Except you can’t. Because biology. Most women literally don’t even know that by the time they crack 30 they’re on a rapid downhill slide to not being able to have kids at all, or they’ll be down syndrome babies.

    In short, this is a reflection of propaganda and a garbage economy for the majority of people. This is not something to celebrate.

    As far as things go, I wouldn’t mind having a shrinking population like Japan… It actually comes with benefits, such as reducing the increase in prices for some goods like housing. The problem is when a nation has a shrinking population, and is also importing hordes of foreigners… It MUST destroy the nation and the culture by default, because a bunch of foreigners are not the same nation as the people they replaced. See the dictionary definition of nation, BTW. It’s the people, not the state!

    This is why Europe and the rest of the white world, if the policies in place now continue, will cease to exist as anything resembling what they are now within a few decades… And Europeans will essentially be the equivalent of Jews in their own homelands. By that I mean a small, but probably successful minority, which will likely be hated by the majority of the population that is a different ethnicity from them.

    It’s sheer madness.

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