December 2013

Line in the Sand:Where Have all the Babies Gone?

Author: Frank Dunne Jr., Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne


Frank Dunne, Jr.
I’ll tell you up front; I’m not sure what Courtney’s angle is here. The idea comes from Newsweek article from last February, “Where Have All the Babies Gone?” It’s about a downward trend in birthrates in the United States. The article’s deck gives the gist: “More and more Americans are childless by choice. But what makes sense for the individual may spell disaster for the country as a whole.”

Disaster for the country? What the authors mean is with increasing numbers of Americans shunning procreation we won’t have enough productive working citizens to sustain the society down the road. In other words, the choice to remain childless is making sense for an increasing number of individuals, but there are severe consequences for the nation. My question is, how do Courtney and I split that down the middle? This is her answer: “Well, you don’t have kids (true) but do you want them? Are you willing to change your whole life?”

By that I assume she’s saying having children is a personal choice. It is, but she ends it right there. That would leave me with having to argue that to offset the projected consequences, we would have to force people to have babies, and I’m not going there because that’s crazy—it’s Orwellian. So I’ll just give you my thoughts on this problem’s causes, from which you should quite easily deduce my solution.

Courtney’s response is congruent with the attitudes exhibited by some of the young women interviewed for the article. Quote: “Kids, they change your entire life. That’s the name of the game. And that’s not something I’m interested in.” To illustrate that this attitude is a growing trend, the authors point out that fertility rates among American women are at the lowest levels since anybody started counting in 1920, and suggest that the weak economy is at least partially to blame. They go on to say, “For many individual women…children have become a choice rather than an inevitable milestone—and one that comes with more costs than benefits.” So now children are seen as nothing more than a balance sheet item. All of that said, the authors present as inevitable: “…as boomers hold on to life and on to the pension and health benefits promised by the state while relatively few new children arrive to balance their numbers and to pay for those promises.”

The attitude expressed by these young women reveals a certain sense of selfishness and a devalued concept of family that is seen throughout the culture. Where is this coming from? Media is largely responsible; just look at how family life and values are incessantly mocked and ridiculed in TV sitcoms, movies, and elsewhere. But it goes beyond that.

How is it that children and families have become economically unfeasible for so many? If you know a thing or two about economics, you know that boom and bust cycles are caused by interventionism. That is, central planning attempts to control the economy through taxing and spending and stimulus schemes; they’re not caused by the free market. Sound familiar?

Now let’s talk about those pension and health benefits promised by The State, e.g., Social Security and Medicare. Isn’t the condition of those programs enough evidence that The State is incapable of keeping such promises? So why does The State continue down a path that is certain to bankrupt The People? Now they want to pile on with Obamacare. Why do we allow it?

The authors conclude the article with: “We should listen carefully. In the coming decades, success will accrue to those cultures that preserve the family’s place, not as the exclusive social unit, but as one that is truly indispensable. It’s a case we need to make as a society, rather than counting on nature to take its course.”

That pretty much nails it…except for one thing. This “baby slump” is anything but nature taking its course. It’s the exact opposite. People being born, living their lives without interference from The State, achieving goals and dreams on their own and raising families to repeat the cycle and perpetuate the human race is the natural order of things.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Courtney Hampson
Two words: Justin Bieber. One look at all of the Beliebers out there, and I think this is the perfect time in history to stop, take a look around, and say, what the heck have we created? I look at some teenagers today and wonder, “What planet are you from? Why is your hair hanging in your eyes, and why do you have this weird twitchy-hair flip thing? Why are you unable to use your hands to move your hair from your eyes? Why are you taking pictures of yourself (and everything on the back of your toilet) in your bathroom mirror? Why are you using social media to tell the world every single detail about yourself? Why is your underwear hanging out? Do your parents know you have the word “juicy” embroidered across your rear-end?”

It was an interesting Newsweek article circa February 2013 that spawned this month’s debate. Here is an excerpt:

“The fertility rate among women has plummeted, since the 2008 economic crisis and the Great Recession that followed, to its lowest level since reliable numbers were first kept in 1920. That downturn has put the U.S. fertility rate increasingly in line with those in other developed economies—suggesting that even if the economy rebounds, the birthrate may not. For many individual women considering their own lives and careers, children have become a choice, rather than an inevitable milestone—and one that comes with more costs than benefits.”

The article suggests that declining U.S. birth rates will irreparably damage our country, our society. And apparently, it is the fault of women. Women like me who have chosen not to have children. Who have chosen career over diaper. Well, this puts a whole new spin on the right to choose doesn’t it?

First, let’s look at the numbers of births in the United States over the last 60 years.
1950 3,632,000 (24.1%)
1960 4,257,850 (23.7%)
1970 3,731,386 (18.4%)
1980 3,612,258 (15.9%)
1990 4,179,000 (16.7%)
2000 4,058,814 (14.7%)
2010 3,999,386 (13 %)
Yes, percentages are down, but we have to look at the raw numbers too. It isn’t fair to look at percentages only when percentages are being compared to the Baby Boom generation. Um, it was called a “boom” because it was the highest spike in births over an 18-year period. We’re looking at a rise, a fall, another rise, and now the start of another fall. A cycle.
Baby Boomers (those born 1946-1964) had a plethora of siblings. So when boomers started having families, they likely scaled back on the whole kid thing because they watched their parents struggle. Because they wore hand-me downs their entire life. Because they never had their own room. Because they never had a new bike. And because they didn’t want their child getting the crap kicked out of him by his five older brothers every day.

It is a cycle. Just like economic downturns. (There was one in the ’70s, the ’80s, and the ’90s.) History repeats itself. How else could you explain that people are cuffing the bottom of their jeans again? That is so eighties. And yet oddly 2013, too.

Why don’t we wait and see how this actually plays out? The future of our country and our society should not be a factor when deciding whether or not to have children. It sounds selfish and maybe it is, but who else should I be thinking about? Birth rates are down. So are teenage pregnancy rates. That is a good thing. Or would we prefer that teenagers continue having unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancies?

Deciding not to have children is a tough decision. Having children because society deems you should is careless.

I could bore you with more data, but let’s face it. You’re already bored from reading Frank’s opinion. So, let’s keep it simple: History repeats itself. Boot cut jeans are back. So are skinny ties. And plaid flannel. Heck, Jason Priestly is back as Justin Bieber. Let’s relax and remember the late, great Mark Twain who said, “A favorite theory of mine—to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.”

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