Fertility Rates, The Environment, Misogyny and the Fate of the Human Race

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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82 Responses

  1. Philip H
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    We need more room for people to take a few years off to have a family. We need more room for people to get their career going when they’re in their 30s or older.

    I agree, and as a fed I had some of the most generous family leave policies to work from when my three youngest kids were born. I could take all the sick leave I had, plus up to 6 weeks of non-paid family leave following each birth. No private company that I am aware of matches that. And if you look closely, the European Social Democracies where that is most common all do so because of governmental policy and legal mandate. Which is why . . .

    What I’m getting at here is that I don’t think the solution lies in a government policy. That may help at the edges. But ultimately, we need to change as a society. And that’s not something that can be done from the top down. It’s something that has to change from the bottom up.

    won’t happen in our ultra capitalist society absent initially heavy handed government actions. You can’t even get corporations to allow highly productive people to continue working from the place they are most inspired in post-pandemic. You won’t get to the society you seek organically, else us Gen-X’ers would have made it happen.Report

  2. InMD
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    Great piece Michael. To Philip’s point above I do think a little nudging from the state would be a good thing. Birthrates should be something states look at similarly to interest rates, i.e. something to be managed but with a very light hand.

    Still I think you’re right about our culture. The tough choices women in particular face with respect to other priorities versus biological clock I think are pretty well worn in our discourse even if we’ve done little to address them. This is going to make me sound like a curmudgeon but I also think prolonged adolescence is getting to be a serious cultural problem. Now don’t get me wrong. Prolonged adolescence is good to the extent it cuts down on teenage pregnancies but it’s bad to the extent it has people pushing kids back to the edge of their fertility windows.

    Like you I’m way too ‘live and let live’ to get overly exercised by the personal lifestyle choices of others but it’s never been easier to be peter pan. Throw our form of capitalism into the mix and you’ve got a potential for serious problems down the road. This actually made me think of a semi relevant college humor post I saw a couple years ago that describes human sexuality as one big missed high five:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DVeq4Oc8S7-I&ved=2ahUKEwji0I2X9trwAhX_EFkFHc6CBhgQwqsBegQIBxAB&usg=AOvVaw3BvMXEgYZ3Gy83feZsKcj6Report

  3. Oscar Gordon
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    …masses of Hawaiians over-running the mainland

    Although wouldn’t that be a bit poetic?Report

  4. Oscar Gordon
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    Agree with more family support. I have a friend, a fellow Engineer (we were in a lot of the same classes in college), who couldn’t find a suitable male partner, and who wanted a lot of kids, and who felt her window closing. So she picked a guy out of a book, got pregnant, quit her lucrative job to move back home with her parents (childcare, doncha know) and took a job as a math and physics teacher at a community college. She has no regrets, but it’s telling that she saw that as the only path open to her to have children.

    And towards @InMD’s point, I wonder how much Peter Pan attitudes have when it comes to finding a suitable male partner?

    Another thing I wonder about is, in all these studies regarding fertility, have they looked at actual fertility? Sperm counts, egg quality, etc. My wife and I went through 3 cycles of IVF because I have a low count (Dr. not sure if it’s related to my motorcycle accident, or the various and sundry things I was exposed to in the military) and she has severe endometriosis, which they suspect came from spending a childhood swimming in a river polluted by various industries.

    And there is a stigma associated with using reproductive medicine, such a IVF (I’m less of a man because of low sperm count, she’s less of a woman because she couldn’t get pregnant naturally, using IVF is against God’s intent, etc. ad nausem BS). And Reproductive Medicine is often not covered by insurance. We paid out of pocket.Report

  5. North
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    I’m all on board with making modest reforms and adjustments to allow people to have as many kids as they want to. I am left utterly kelvin cold about Douthatian style fretting over fertility rates and what dooms and decadences they may portend. The US is one of the most effective countries on the planet when it comes to importing young people from elsewhere, putting them to work and making them Americans. If birth rates in America remain below replacement level then all economic and logistical caviling is moot- we can and will import as many young folks as we need to meet those demographic and economic needs. If the fertility bust continues, and well it might, then the US will be in the catbird seat and I, personally, see much to be admired about a world where the family of nations are competing with each other to attract immigrants.Report

  6. LeeEsq
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    I’m generally suspicious of government attempts to both increase and decrease the fertility rate. Nothing good comes from either. With the former, especially with right-leaning governments, you get something like the Handmaiden’s Tale. The later gets China’s Family Planning Policy with forced abortions and sterilizations. The fertility rate should be a very laissez-faire thing.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to LeeEsq
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      While I agree with your sentiment, the truth is, The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of fiction and I find it a bit silly when people invoke it as if it’s reality.Report

    • Pinky in reply to LeeEsq
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      Don’t leave me hanging, what are some real-world examples that look like The Handmaid’s Tale, outside of the Islamic world?

      ETA: or, you know, what Kristin said 1 minute before me.Report

      • North in reply to Pinky
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        Why exclude the Islamic world?Report

        • dhex in reply to North
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          thankfully the integralists in the us will never get anywhere near the levers of power, so your examples will be more limited to iran and afghanistan in the last 50 years. and ultra orthodox judaism in the us, along with other heavily-restrictive (along gender lines) religious and cultural subcultures in the states.Report

          • North in reply to dhex
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            Oh I concur about that but we’re not talking about examples that are likely or even threatening to come about, simply ones that exist. Felt to me like excluding one of the largest, most egregious and most prevalent RL examples of right wing handmaids’ tale sort of behavior was base stealing.Report

            • Pinky in reply to North
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              Typically we don’t use a term like “right-leaning” to describe Islamic countries. It’s fine if you do, although I think it would lead to more confusion than clarity. Also, separating government and culture is more difficult in sharia states, so I wouldn’t feel confident depicting an Islamic government as a population-growth driver. I’d need to look at the specific case.Report

              • North in reply to Pinky
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                I’ll readily grant that Islamic states don’t fit the economic right wing (libertarian) descriptor at all since they’re deeply prone to all kinds of massive and inept government involvement in the economy and are accordingly often basket cases.

                That said, on the social policy level of religion being integrated into government, religious rules being enforced as government policy and the like I see no space at all between what the Islamic states get up to and what right wing integralists in the West would like (other than the label on the one religion that is identified as “true” is Christianity rather than Islam).Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to North
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                I’ll readily grant that Islamic states don’t fit the economic right wing (libertarian) descriptor at all since they’re deeply prone to all kinds of massive and inept government involvement in the economy and are accordingly often basket cases.

                In fact, this is true of the far right in general. It’s a common misconception that the far right must be the polar opposite of the far left, and therefore as strongly pro-capitalist as the far left is anti-capitalist. In reality, far-right regimes and ideologues are typically centrist or even a bit left-wing when it comes to economics. Richard Spencer’s views on economics are much closer to Bernie Sanders’ than to Milton Friedman’s.

                I’m not sure that the polar opposite of the far left actually exists in significant numbers.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to North
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          Because including the Islamic World tends to create very big political fights. Many Western liberals are uncomfortable with pointing out the problems in Muslim majority countries because they believe, with cause, that it will lead to Islamophobia in the West.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Pinky
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        Back in 2001, Margaret Atwood wrote about what inspired her to write A Handmaid’s Tale.

        She concludes:

        Six years after our trip, I wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, a speculative fiction about an American theocracy. The women in that book wear outfits derived in part from nuns’ costumes, partly from schoolgirls’ hemlines, partly – I must admit – from the faceless woman on the Old Dutch Cleanser box, but also partly from the chador I acquired in Afghanistan and its conflicting associations. As one character says, there is freedom and freedom from. But how much of the first should you have to give up in order to assure the second? All cultures have had to grapple with that, and our own – as we are now seeing – is no exception. Would I have written the book if I had never visited Afghanistan? Possibly. Would it have been the same? Unlikely.

        I always found the yelling about Handmaid’s Tale in the US to be vaguely tawdry. The whole “freedom and freedom from” quote is a great line, but it leads to essays about the bikini vs. the burqa and… well. I get tired.

        I mean, like, while I appreciate that every single slope in the history of the world has been slippery, it also feels like Atwood invented a guy, made up the guy’s fantasies, then proceeded to criticize this guy she made up’s fantasies.

        And so we have to watch out for every single Mike Pence out there. (He doesn’t even eat with women unless his wife is there too!)

        And, meanwhile, it’s a lot tougher for a white chick to waltz over to Afghanistan while on holiday in Australia and pick up a chador at the market.Report

        • InMD in reply to Jaybird
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          If you squint hard back at the moral majority days you can kinda sorta see what I think she was getting at. Even in 2001 political religious conservatism was still a force, though we now know that what looked like a real shot at ascendancy was actually death throes.

          Now, when the de facto leader of said movement is a serial marrying and divorcing, porn star banging, hedonistic womanizer of the seediest variety… well… it’s just hard to see how we’d ever get there from here. Someone might rationalize how actually it is in fact a sinner that leads us there but those kinds of chaos theory arguments have never struck me as credible.Report

          • North in reply to InMD
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            One could argue it was basically a kingmaking force in the 2004 election too but, yes, in hindsight what we thought was fierce combat was actually death throes and neither side realized it.Report

            • InMD in reply to North
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              That’s how I see it, maybe with an exception for the abortion issue. Of course I think any objective person can appreciate that we haven’t seen the last word on that yet. However IMO that’s precisely because enough people outside of religious conservatives are so conflicted that it transcends many of the other lines, not because they’re winning hearts and minds.Report

              • North in reply to InMD
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                Abortion is a funny thing because of Roe. Oddly it seems like there are non-zero odds that Roe falling might eventually lead to the ruin of the pro-life cause and the settling of the American position on abortion into lines much like what is practiced in much of the rest of the industrialized world. But the road to that outcome would be paved with the bodies of a heck of a lot of women along the way.Report

              • InMD in reply to North
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                I agree on that as well.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to InMD
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            In even the most severely puritanical societies, the top leaders are quite often the most hedonistic sort.

            Moral strictures are almost never separate from a rigid social hierarchy in which there are different rules for the elite and little people.

            So, yeah I can see how America can easily become a version of the Handmaids Tale or Hunger Games or any other dystopian scenario.Report

            • InMD in reply to Chip Daniels
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              These are the kinds of arguments I don’t find credible. Yes, sometimes the ultra homophobic Bishop is secretly seeing male prostitutes. The commandant or the sheikh who preaches spartan living for the greater good lives in decadence behind the scenes. The key is that it is happening at least relatively in secret.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD
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                And the Communist elite always had their share of perks, etc. as well.Report

              • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                Yea but see my response to Chip. They toed the line in public.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to InMD
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                Did they? Even with a controlled state press, I find it hard to believe that people didn’t know the higher-ups drove around in imported cars and had dachas on the Black Sea, or thought they had to stand in line for toilet paper.Report

              • North in reply to InMD
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                I disagree. Can we find many (any??) examples of strict puritanical societies where the leadership elite wasn’t cheek deep in corruption and license by the terms of their own State principles? I’m not thinking of any.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to North
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                And toeing the line in public doesn’t mean anything when the hedonism is widely known and accepted.

                The average peasant has always known that the King/ Imam/ Bishop/ Party Leader is free to engage in licentiousness… that’s the point!

                The ability to flaunt your detachment from the petty rules that govern the little people is what drives home the point that the King is the King, and you are not.Report

              • North in reply to Chip Daniels
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                I concur.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
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                Exactly.

                And hell, if they do it smart, the average peasant happily agrees that the elite should enjoy those privileges.Report

              • InMD in reply to North
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                I think you (and Mike and Chip and Oscar) are missing my point. Let me give you an example. The Catholic Church has engaged in all manner of hypocrisy and cover ups of various abuses and flouting of doctrine by the hierarchy. However it does not follow that any old heathen of today could become the Pope (yes, some nuance to this is required for past centuries).

                To go back to our communist dictatorship example- a person who constantly flouts the tenants of communism will not get to be the premier. At best they may be useful for a time but eventually they get the gulag. But a premier who takes the spoils in a manner inconsistent with communist doctrine will be rationalized by other communists.

                And keep in mind my comment was in reference to Handmaiden’s Tale. Our closest real life examples of this are in the Islamic world. None of those places, from Iran to Afghanistan, had theocratic rule brought in my hard partying, whoring secularists.Report

              • North in reply to InMD
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                I think I get it but I’m still struggling to agree.
                Christianity’s tenants focus on humility, sacrifice of self for the benefit of others, love of enemies and the like. Every significant Christian hierarchy has been climbed, pretty much entirely, by people who don’t adhere strictly (or, heck, even closely) to those doctrines. Has any Pope really lived in poverty so they could send the largess of their institutions to the poor? Could a Christian who truly adheres to these doctrines even ascend to the Papacy? I am very dubious. Those devout Christians would be busy being ascetics. Is this a secret? No not really, the Papacy drips with ostentatious wealth.

                Islamic religious authorities? Same as the Catholics, maybe worse. Evangelical Christians? Mormons? Maybe not quite to the degree that Catholics do but they all live very comfortably.

                It gets even worse with the Commies. Communism, flat out, doesn’t work as an economic system and as an ideology it’s fundamentally anti-hierarchical. So, all the Communist leaders had to manage that one way or the other- somehow getting a nonsensical economic system to produce economic output and climbing a hierarchy while deploring hierarchies. Absolutely the ones who lost their internal political games got shipped off to the gulags and it was never hard to produce sins against the proletariat they were guilty of (because they ALL were guilty of sins against the proletariat). It certainly was never a secret that the politically connected amongst the communists everywhere lived in luxury compared to their worker comrades.

                And I’m certainly not going to even touch Feudalism.

                But maybe I’m still missing your point?Report

              • InMD in reply to North
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                My point was not to confuse hypocrisy with non-belief/non-group membership. The communist leaders who overthrew non-communist governments during the cold war were hypocritical and calculating but they were still communists. The ayatollahs were/are hypocrites, but they are still ultra conservative Muslims.

                What I’m pushing back on is the idea that someone whose entire persona is an open rejection of a particular extremist ideology can still lead said extremist group to totalitarian (or close to it) control. Maybe that has happened but I am not aware of any historical example.Report

              • North in reply to InMD
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                Ok, if you put it that way I suppose I follow. So they do those things and they’re still communists/Islamists/Catholics etc but they feel bad about it. Fair enuff.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to North
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                Buddhist Tibet when it was actually a theocracy? The Taliban seems to have walked the walk as well. Same with at least the early leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels
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              I think this is something of a uniquely Protestant hypocrisy and even then not that much. A lot of puritanical ascetic clergy actually manage to walk the walk. I think a lot of the Islamist types really do live the harsh life style they want for others. Same with Catholic and Eastern Orthodox clergy or Buddhist clergy. It’s the prosperity gospel of American Evangelical Christianity and a lot of the gaudy excess that leads us to believe differently.Report

          • Philip H in reply to InMD
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            Now, when the de facto leader of said movement is a serial marrying and divorcing, porn star banging, hedonistic womanizer of the seediest variety… well… it’s just hard to see how we’d ever get there from here.

            Evangelical thinker Lance Wallnau then gives Mitchell his take: Trump is a “modern-day Cyrus,” an ancient Persian king chosen by God to “navigate in chaos.”

            https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/3/5/16796892/trump-cyrus-christian-right-bible-cbn-evangelical-propaganda

            Today, 82 percent of white evangelicals would cast their ballots for Trump. Two-thirds believe that he has not damaged the decency of the presidency, 55 percent agree with Sarah Huckabee Sanders that “God wanted him to be president,” and 99 percent oppose impeachment.

            https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/christian-right-worships-donald-trump-915381/

            “I believe it’s like Ephesians 6:10 through 19,” Horbowy said from Florida. “I believe this is a president who wears the full armor of God.”

            https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/03/donald-trump-church-photo-op-evangelicals

            Your Mileage May Vary.Report

            • InMD in reply to Philip H
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              I find it about as convincing as I find the argument that Joe Biden is going to impose a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship of the woke due to the endorsement by the wokerati.

              But look this is turning into a giant jack of Michael’s way more interesting post so I am going to leave it at that.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Pinky
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        As a state level society, none yet. There are subcultures like the Evangelicals where this happens though.Report

        • Pinky in reply to LeeEsq
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          re: “I’m generally suspicious of government attempts to both increase and decrease the fertility rate. Nothing good comes from either. With the former, especially with right-leaning governments, you get something like the Handmaiden’s Tale.”

          OK, so you acknowledge that there aren’t any such cases. If it happens at the subcultural level, then it’s not governmental. But, are there even any subcultural examples? You mention Evangelicals – are there a lot of polygamous Evangelicals with backup breeding wives?Report

  7. Kristin Devine
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    Great piece! Really enjoyed it.

    One of the fascinating things that many people are unaware of is the unbelievably severe social pressure on couples in many European countries to have very few, even no children. Some of my clients are being treated quite shabbily by friends, coworkers, family, and even medical professionals for having even just three children, which is a pretty normal number in the US. Even two is frowned upon in some circles.

    We all have heard tell of gender selective abortions in Asia, but there are many of them occurring in Europe as well (and to a lesser extent in the US, but there’s less pressure to limit family size here). There’s not only a strong preference for few children, but a strong preference for girls – or at least ~A~ girl for the sake of “family balancing” – to such extent that some people are actually conceiving again and again trying for a girl and aborting males.Report

    • North in reply to Kristin Devine
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      That is fascinating, so what is the reason for the Europeans looking down on electing to have kids? It seems like such an alien attitude to have from a North American context.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kristin Devine
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      I’ve noticed a subtle trend among folks who opt* not to have kids, who seem to be growing in number in the states, of really looking down at children and those folks who brought them into the world. It is often couched in humor but I wonder if there is a bit more to it. It’s of the, “Yea, we would have invited you to the dinner party but it was adults only and, well, you know, you have those things at home,” variety. I don’t quite get it and I generally try not to let it bug me, but it does seem present. My hunch is that it is a form of push back on the assumption that they ought to be having kids and are therefore doing something wrong because they didn’t. But it seems misdirected. I wonder if these are connected.

      * I recognize some of these folks may in fact want kids but for one reason or another are unable to and therefore do not and have made not having kids a part of their identity.Report

  8. Kazzy
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    Maybe my reading comprehension is off, but is this strictly looking at America? If so, do we really need to fret about the fertility rate when we have more than enough immigration to keep our population growing?Report

    • Philip H in reply to Kazzy
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      we have more then enough immigration if you count the undocumented folks. Documented immigration is a fraction of that.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Kazzy
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      Fertility rates are dropping basically everywhere outside of Israel and have been for decades. We might actually reach a point in the medium future where illegal immigration dries up from Mexico and points south not so much because we build a wall or whatever, but because there’s less of an excess of populationReport

  9. Saul Degraw
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    Having children is hard. Not having children has become easier and more pleasant for many people especially college-educated professionals in the DINK scenario or even living on their own. The thing that gets me confused is that the people who shit their pants about declining birth rates are also the ones who scream until they are blue in the face about how any sort of program or policy that makes having children easier is evil socialism that cannot be allowed.

    Then again, the human condition might as well be “you can’t have it both ways but both ways is the only way I want it.”Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw
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      The problem here is that between the high progressivity of the tax system and the huge amount of money that the government spends on universal and means-tested benefits, the majority of Americans are, on a whole-life basis, net tax recipients. That is, the government spends more on then than they pay in taxes. Just paying the government back for public school requires paying several thousand dollars per year in state taxes alone—how many people do that?

      Because heredity is a thing (or, for heredity denialists, because high-earners tend to have high-earning children for whatever reason), the children of net tax recipients will, on average, be net tax recipients themselves. So a program that only encourages net tax recipients to have children will worsen the long-fun fiscal situation.

      To actually improve the long-run fiscal situation, we need programs targeted at people who pay the most in taxes. So rather than a fixed child allowance of $3,000 per year, we might offer an 10% reduction in your total federal tax bill per child, starting from the third, up to a 30% reduction, or something like that. I’m not sure how viable this is, since maybe it would just give people tax cuts for children they were going to have anyway and not incentivize any additional children, but a fixed-dollar child credit has the wrong incentive structure. The only thing worse than that would be one that phases out at high incomes, so of course that’s what we actually have.Report

  10. Mike Schilling
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    Stand on Zanzibar, written in the 60s, was about the horrors that would ensue when world population reached 7 billion.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
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      Also, Heinlein’s If This Goes On— seems like an obvious precursor to The Handmaid’s Tale.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Mike Schilling
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      and it…wasn’t particularly wrong about how the world would turn! There’s been rather more miniaturization of electronics (and advances in signal processing) than Brunner expected, but that book is scary in how closely it matches what we’ve got today.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to DensityDuck
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        A lot of wrong guesses too, of course, No mandatory limits on family size, no genetic limits on who can have kids, no uniquely capable computers smarter than people are (it’s a common conceit in SF, but, really, if we can build one, we can build thousands).

        But, sure, it’s an excellent book, and very prescient about endemic violence, the sexual revolution, and social media. It even predicts Viagra (not by name, of course.)Report

  11. Mike Schilling
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    The average woman wants 2.7 children and is having 1.8.

    Well, sure. Do you know what it costs to educate .9 of a child these days?Report

  12. Jesse
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    I mean, fertility drops like a stone everywhere we have any sort of modern economy, even in places with heavy restrictions on women (see Iran and Saudi Arabia’s fertility rate over the past 30 years), and it becomes even more pronounced when women have somewhere close to equal access to education and the job market.

    Because it turns out, and this isn’t a ding on women who have kids when they’re young, that having children in your 20’s is a drag on other parts of your life, in a variety of ways, especially for women, where even when they have jobs, all studies still show them dealing with a disproportionate part of the work of parenthood, there ya’ go.

    The only country that seems to have bucked this trend is Israel (since Hungry’s attempts are failing pretty flat) and they have the ‘positives’ of a unified society that feels like it’s under constant threat and insane subsidies for a portion of the population.

    Also, I have to push slightly back on the ‘women are having less kids than they want.’

    Here’s the thing – people are optimistic in general, at times, so I think even if we had massive child care subsidies, either for the home or day care, free health care, monthly checks for parents, and a better work-life balance for parents, there’d still be a gap. Maybe a slightly smaller gap, but not as small as you think.

    In short, yes, pass all the good stuff, but not because it’ll actually help birth rates all that much, but because it’s the right thing to do.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse
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      The other big part, especially in the United States, is that thank to our broken welfare state is that it makes it very hard to have kids and very easy and often pleasant not to have kids. There are lots of DINKs out there who live something as close to a responsibility free lifestyle without being a loaded trustfunder. Yes, they have jobs and could be laid off/develop a serious illness or injury concurrently but largely they get have significant discretionary income and free time to do what they want.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jesse
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      Israel’s fertility is also high because of the Holocaust. A lot of this is about trying to recover lost numbers even if Jews elsewhere do not have the same philosophy about this.

      Besides greater opportunities for women, people in the developed world and even less developed world have more of an opportunity to enjoy their youth since World War II than they did previously. There were always at least some twenty somethings in the big cities living life to the fullest but because life was closer to the bone for many people and society was still very traditional, not that many. After World War II, a massive increase in wealth and social liberalization made the enjoy your twenties life style more available. It turns out a lot of people really do want to do fun things when young rather than raise kids.

      Kids are also a cost rather than a free source of labor these days. So that contributes to smaller families as dismal as it sounds.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq
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        I have a number of friends and acquaintances with ties to Israel. Most of them say that there’s a really strongly supportive culture and policy mix there in favor of having kids but, in fairness, I have heard some stories about how people who have less than three kids suffer from some pretty nasty cultural side eye. I wonder if it’s possible to get the one without the other though.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq
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        My sister was doing her mom thing of nagging her 12 year old about picking up his clothes and cleaning his room, and he muttered darkly, “Yeah, that’s why you had kids, you just want someone to do your work for you!”

        The idea of children being this endless source of free labor was so hilarious she had to sit down and let the gasps of laughter subside, before she could even get angry.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels
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          LOL. When society was much more rural and poorer, kids were absolutely a labor source for farms, mines, workshops. and many other places. It was why child labor was a thing.Report

      • InMD in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I want to throw something out there in response to your second paragraph that I think gets short shrift and that I think is why Bruenig’s article touched such a nerve. People who are foregoing children by definition don’t know what they’re missing. Now again, I don’t judge and I mean that. Other people’s choices on this subject are something I deem none of my damn business.

        But I’m being totally serious when I say becoming a dad is the best and most fun thing I’ve ever done. Yea it’s a lot of work and there are some big sacrifices but it hasn’t been the complete death sentence single/childless people can act like it is (and not for my wife either). This is where I acknowledge how lucky I am to have a great support structure, good job, etc. But because my wife and I waited until into our 30s we’ve now found ourselves in a position where our window for more is rapidly closing. We have to consider some assistance which raises a whole bunch of moral and financial quandaries for us that are way too personal to get into.

        And look I loved my 20s! I partied my face off to the extent I could with hellish law school debt and not a lot of income coming out of the Great Recession. But if you told me I could trade the last, oh 2 years of that, to get started on where I am today, even with way less financial security, but have a good chance of avoiding what we’re dealing with now? I’d take it in a heartbeat. So again I don’t begrudge people riding the party wave forever (some of my closest friends are) but don’t take it as a given that their decision is really the happiest or even the most fun. It’s a very personal, and IMO not at all straightforward decision.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          I agree that being a parent is a good thing. I am not a parent yet because of no partner but I kind of want children some day. I might be having them older than I would wish, I was hoping to get them popped out in the first half of my thirties, but what can you do. That being said,, we are seeing an increase in childless people for a variety of reasons and a growing number of humans seem to be making this choice.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse
      Ignored
      says:

      I wonder how much housing costs play into as well. If I am a DINK in a two bedroom residence, and I suddenly have a kid, I can make it work. Two kids? Now I kinda need a bigger place, but I have less disposable income…Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon
        Ignored
        says:

        A two bedroom residence for a family of four would be seen as ample space for a family within living history even in the most affluent countries. In a lot of the world, many people do with a lot less space even in really wealthy countries. The idea that small families or even big families need big amounts of space is really new one.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq
          Ignored
          says:

          Sure, they can, but do people see it that way? I mean, in living history, people got by without internet, but these days access to it is seen as a public good.

          If you didn’t live in a small house packed with family, would you necessarily want to do that?

          Or maybe you are DINKs in a 1 bedroom in the city, and you have a kid. You’ll want a second bedroom pretty quick. Or maybe a safer, or more kid-friendly neighborhood (just because in living memory kids grew up in combat zones…).Report

  13. Eddie Coyle
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m reminded of John Calhoun’s Mouse Utopia experiment. I’ve often looked at the dysfunction creeping into society, aberrant behaviors, and wondered that it mirrored that experiment closely, it doesn’t help that population collapse, the loss of desire to breed or even copulate, appears to be the next stage we are entering. (by observation only here, of course)Report

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