Ignoring The Empty Cradle In The Room, AKA Fertility Rate Plummets

Barb Wire

The presidential candidates are studiously ignoring the empty cradle in the room.

How can voters even begin to think about the long-term consequences of the flight from marriage and the fateful fall of fertility, if they’re treated as non-issues by candidates and politicians? For Clinton and Trump, family issues boil down to paid maternity leave and subsidized day care.

Fertility – it’s not just about crop rotation. A country’s future is found in the nursery.

A nation’s total fertility rate (TFR) refers to the number of children the average woman has in her lifetime. A TFR of 2.1 (replacement level) is needed to maintain current population. Once your TFR hits 1.3, you might as well put a “closed for business” sign on the door.

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In 2014, for the first time since we began keeping these records in 1920, America achieved below-replacement fertility – 1.93, less than half of what it was in 1965.

True, compared to Japan (whose population is declining by 100,000 a year), and the European Union (with a fertility rate of 1.5 – 60% below replacement), we’re knee-deep in baby buggies and bassinets. But we’re heading in the same direction, due to a common cultural rot.

America is getting older and older. Children have gone from 36% of total population in 1960 to 24% in 2010, giving us a smaller childbearing base in each generation.

Due to better health care, the elderly are on the opposite trajectory. Seniors, who were 12.7% of total population in 2000, will reach 20.3% by 2050. The fiscal consequences of this shift are staggering.

Social Security isn’t a pension system. There are no investments. It’s been correctly called an “inter-generational wealth transfer system,” which works only as long taxpayer/donors substantially outnumber retiree/recipients.

In the decades ahead, fewer and fewer workers will be required to support a growing number of elderly. Politicians will try stopgap measures like raising the retirement age and increasing already onerous Social Security taxes. (Both parties have taken a reduction in benefits off the table.) Eventually will come rationing of medical services and euthanasia.

Forget paying off the National Debt, which has doubled to $19.5 trillion under Obama. Annual interest on the debt alone will rise from an estimated $480 billion in 2019 to $722 billion in 2024. Unlike the Debt itself, this isn’t a can that can be kicked down the road, but a burden which will consume a growing portion of the federal budget – crowding out defense spending and welfare.

Since Roe, we’ve killed over 60 million Americans in the womb – some minutes away from birth. The moral dimensions of this tragedy aside, think of it in demographic terms. All of the children who aren’t born today, won’t grow up to be the workers of tomorrow, whose contributions are needed to keep society functioning.

In April, Pope Francis posed a series of rhetorical questions to a group of reporters onboard his plane: “Don’t you realize that… the family throughout the world is in crisis? Don’t we realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is enough to make one cry? And the family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry?”

To understand the dimensions of the crisis, consider the following:

• In 1960, 72% of adults in this country were married. By 2008, the figure had fallen to 51%.

• Even more alarming, among 18-to-29-year-olds (in their prime childbearing years), those married plummeted from 59% to 20% in the same period.

• In 1950, 78% of U.S. households consisted of parents and their children. By 2010, they represented less than half. This was celebrated by the mainstream media as the “death of Ozzie and Harriet.”

• The rise of cohabitation parallels the decline of marriage – up 13% between 2009 and 2010 alone. These are relationships whose duration can be measured with a stopwatch. (Most last less than a year.) Instead of “till death do us part,” it’s “till I get bored or something better comes along.”

• As George Gilder showed a generation ago in “Sexual Suicide,” marriage tames anarchic male instincts. Married men buy houses with more than one bathroom and put money into college funds. Single men acquire status symbols on the higher end of the spectrum and join street gangs on the lower end.

• In 2009, 41% of all births were out of wedlock. The overwhelming majority of these children will grow up in single-parent homes and continue the family tradition of not forming intact families.

Our prisons, juvenile detention centers, drug rehab facilities, welfare roles and homeless shelters are filled with children from fatherless families.

According to the National Center for Fathering:

The poverty rate is four times higher for fatherless families. Among female-headed households, 47.6% are in poverty. (Marriage is the only anti-poverty program that actually works.) Children who grew up without fathers comprise 71% of both high-school dropouts and teen pregnancies.

Of youth in prison, 85% grew up without fathers. It’s been estimated that a 1% increase of single-parent homes in a neighborhood results in a 3% increase in the level of adolescent violence. The thugs rampaging in urban areas every time there’s a police shooting were not raised by Ozzie and Harriet.

“Family” isn’t a campaign slogan. The decline of the family is the single greatest threat our civilization faces.

The family is where we learn life’s most important lessons – diligence and decency, cooperation and compassion. In an increasingly turbulent world, family is an anchor.

Men work hardest to support families. (Perhaps one reason Millennials change jobs roughly every three years.) Patriotic sentiments aside, soldiers man the barricades in defense of hearth and home.

It all comes down to family. It always has; it always will. History started with the family (one man and one woman). The disappearance of the family will mark the end of history.

Current trends should be setting off alarm bells in our national consciousness. But word of the fire this time doesn’t fit in a 10-second campaign spot.

First published at GrasstopsUSA.com

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Don Feder
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.

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