Replacing Ourselves: Do We Owe Future Generations Our Reproduction Today?
We've heard for years the Baby Boomers are going to kill Social Security when they start drawing off it. X, Y and Millennium just aren't putting it back in fast enough. There just aren't enough of us to take care of all of them.
Is it getting worse?
Well, maybe. According to the U.S. Census Bureau:
- In 1976, 10.2% of women aged 40-44 had never had a child, 9.6% only had one child and 35.9% had nearly 3 or more children (it gets foggy with the whole percentages of a kid thing, which I can never wrap my head around).
- In 2004, 19.3% of women aged 40-44 had never had a child, 17.4% had between one and two children and 34.% percent had fewer than three children (again, this math is sort of fuzzy).
So it seems we're having fewer children, and we're having them later in life. The teen birth rate is down. So ... some people are panicking.
America needs to produce 2.1 children per couple to keep up with births to support the population -- and that rate is not being maintained. Economies in Europe have been especially hurt by a drop in birth rates.
Hmm. Well, sure, we need more kids to take care of us when we're old, but what if we can't afford to have them now? It seems the Pelosi statement highlighted a problem in our current economic downturn: kids, what with their darned needs for education and healthcare, cost everyone money until they get old enough to get a job and pay taxes.
Katha Pollitt at The Guardian UK writes:
More important, what about the economics of actually existing women and families? This is no time to be saddling people with babies they don't want and can't provide for, who will further reduce the resources available for the kids they already have and further limit parents' ability to get an education or a job. In a Depression, birth rates go down for a reason: People. Have. No. Money.
As far as repopulating the earth goes, I think we're going to be okay. The Census Bureau also says only North Dakota actually lost population between 2000 and 2005, and only a handful of states had flat growth. Not everyone needs to have two kids, because some people have ten. I do think it's a good idea for anyone with fewer than nine kids to purchase long-term care insurance. I don't think we can safely assume anymore that our kids will be able to care for us in our old age. They'll probably be dealing with young kids themselves, and they or may not be better off than we are now.
I firmly believe people should decide whether or not to bear children based on their ability to care for and love those children. I don't think anyone should bear children out of a sense of responsibility or economic pressure. I also don't think anyone should bear children they don't want. I don't understand how we can really talk about childbearing in relation to economics, as bearing children is such a silly thing to do from an economic standpoint. Have you seen how much they eat?
But that's not really why we have kids, now, is it?