Your Survival Guy spent time doing on-the-ground research in Europe this spring, and one trend that stuck out in Italy and France as a giant red flag for the countries’ economies was their declining birth rates. Italy is in desperate need of a “bambino boom,” and France is facing its lowest birth rates since just after WWII.
In Europe, those declining birth rates feel like someone else’s problem, but America is having its own problem with declining birth rates. In The American Conservative, John Hirschauer asks, “Why Aren’t Americans Having Children?” In answer, he suggests that many Americans today simply aren’t willing to make the sacrifices required by parenthood. He writes:
There is an interesting piece in Deseret News by Washington Examiner columnist and author Tim Carney on America’s declining fertility rate.
Carney spoke to several families and couples about their decisions to have, or not to have, children. An exchange between Carney and a couple from Utah—a state that, despite having the third-highest birth rate in the country, has seen its fertility rates fall below replacement level—stood out:
Nicole nods and says, “We don’t want kids.”
I ask if she means they don’t want kids right now, or they don’t ever want kids.
“Probably ever,” Isaac says.
I ask why not.
“We can’t afford it,” Nicole replies.
What costs in particular do they have in mind?
“Everything,” Isaac begins. “Health care.… But honestly, it’s just selfishness.”
I look at Nicole’s face, but she gives little reaction. Isaac continues: “I joke with Nicole, ‘some people are watching Teletubbies and cleaning up vomit, and we’re going to be drinking margaritas in Paris.’”
People like Nicole and Isaac very often say they don’t have kids because kids are expensive. They’ll cite things like health care, clothing, and education costs, and point to their own lack of financial stability. But is that really why they’re not having kids?
I don’t think so. Kids can be expensive, it’s true, and policymakers should do what they can to change that. Some families do decide against having an additional child because of the costs involved. But for many people, cost has very little to do with it. As Carney points out, poor countries outbreed wealthy countries by a sizable margin, and previous generations of Americans, who were materially much poorer, had much higher fertility rates than we do. Our grandparents got married young, had a bunch of kids, and made it work. Many today simply do not want to introduce someone or something in their lives that requires them to make that kind of sacrifice.
Action Line: Margaritas in Paris are nice (Your Survival Guy is a fan of Paris), but if both America and France don’t increase their birth rates, the supply of new tourists to the City of Lights will dry up as fast as the supply of garçons to serve them. Make sure your family survives. Click here to subscribe to my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter, and become a Survivor.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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