Now here is a topic that is sure to start a lunch conversation that makes the men sweat. The recent article Is the West's baby bust being busted? examines the new trend of rising birth rates in developed nations. It has been thought for some time that the wealthier a nation gets, more specifically their women, the fewer children they have. The article presents the new finding that the wealthier nations, mostly European, have rising birth rates. Now it is not for me to ruin anyone’s lunch with diaper talk and children themed songs from PBS, but the article gives little reasons why this would happen and I thought maybe we could supply the reasons.
It would be logical that birth rates would drop, and they have historically as nations get wealthy. Women must work to supplement a higher standard of living. In developed nations, the work trends and occupations often require higher education. This would mostly require men and women to delay having children and getting married until they are financially settled or at least into their later twenties. Career women would have to establish themselves in a field and this would take some time with unequal pay of the sexes and the historical lack of opportunities in business. Finally, the reason for lower birth rates is the difficult burden of managing a household and having a career. Though these factors would not limit child birth, they have and would deter many women and families from having a large family.
For some reason the study does not sit well with me, even though it is Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania doing part of the research. First they do not factor in immigration and though they downplay the role of it in birthrates, it has played a huge factor in keeping America at its competent rate of population growth. From New York to Texas, Florida to Arizona (not to mention California), the children of immigrants are filling our schools and neighborhoods. It is difficult for the reader to bypass their first hand experience with just a sentence. Secondly, they do not factor in the fertility science that has boomed in the recent years to help developed nations have their children regardless of age. Developed nations, especially with a nationalized medical system, offer fertility assistance at low cost. These countries are under pressure to maintain the nationalism and language that they see slipping away to immigrant culture and language. With the help of a state run medical assistance, they can promote child birth in all women and they just may have according to this study. Finally, the study does not broach the topic of populations in competition for natural resources. The mother must have an instinct to help the child succeed and prosper in the world. The biological instinct would suppress the need for multiple births if the children would compete for attention and goods in the same house, country and world. These problems were not addressed or just glanced over in the study, and thus makes the argument questionable.
So why are rates going up?
The article says rates are high in developing nations because the more children they have, the better chance that someone will still be alive to take care of the parents when they get older. I had a certain sting of guilt here because I never considered that my birth was actually to take care of my parents. I also realize how poor a job I have being doing of that. I will let you fill in your own reasons in the comments, but I believe one is dissatisfaction in the spiritual aspect of modern life. Children help us to remember what is important. They are a point of pride outside of our own ego that we can enjoy and control. Children provide a connection to the community that being a working person doesn’t. It is what you may have in common with your neighbor. Schools and sports are how we connect with our own peer group. The need to have a good home life is still part of Americana that we strive to attain. The more children you have, the more connected to the community you are. This helps a parent create a new persona, away from the pressure of work and career, which satisfies a human need.
What makes people have large families?
Coming from a large family, I can not say enough about the benefits and positive relationships it has provided. This being said, I do not want a large family and there is guilt as if I am depriving my own children of what I believed made me a better and more caring person. The easy answer would be the lack of birth control. A harder answer would be that people want large families so they do not have to fit into a strange society. This is the reason why immigrants have large families. You have a support group that helps your children survive on the streets and schools. It is especially pertinent when a large family is a financial burden. The inability or refusal to join a community is perhaps a reason why large families existed and exist today primarily in recent immigrant families. Sorry, Jon and Kate.
Why is the large family disappearing in the America and European landscape?
The large family is disappearing because of the tremendous financial burden of existing in America. The lack of faith in occupations and the ever changing skill set one must acquire to stay current in today’s economy are just two reasons. There are many reasons, but I believe that a parent realizes that success for their children is tied to economic prosperity in both the social and career fields. The later one waits to have children, the more valuable the experience becomes because the thought must exist that this may be the last chance to be a parent. There are perhaps many reasons, but I believe financial fear is the one that keeps families smaller.
So the birth rates are on the rise. We can feel confident that some will come to follow us that look like us and talk like us. We can have our own nations still if you get to baby making. The developing nations are beating us and are having more and more children in abject poverty. The article clearly draws a line between our problem and their's. That might be the saddest part of it all: that the world’s children or immigrant children are not our own.
So do you have any answers for the above questions?