The birth rate in the United States is in decline. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Fewer couples are choosing to get married, and of those who do, an increasing number are deciding not to have children. More women are prioritizing their careers over motherhood. Contraceptives are everywhere, and, despite the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion has become socially acceptable. We might lament the decline in the number of children being born and worry about what that might mean for America’s future, but we shouldn’t be surprised.
But digging into the data turns up quite a few surprises. Indeed, mysteries.
The obvious factors were already in place by 2007. The drop is across all demographics. Economic improvement made no difference. The mystery is, what changed in 2007? The researchers couldn’t find anything tangible. They do speculate that a broad based shift in values must have taken place. As they say in the abstract of their scholarly publication, “We conjecture that the ‘shifting priorities’ of more recent cohorts, reflecting changes in preferences for having children, aspirations for life, and parenting norms, may be responsible.”
Yesterday we blogged about the official advocacy of suicide. Putting these topics together calls to mind P. D. James’ novel The Children of Men. James, known best for her extremely well-written mystery novels, was a Christian. In this novel, she writes a science fiction dystopia, about a time when the human race has lost its ability to reproduce, and, in the consequent mood of hopelessness and despair, is busy euthanizing itself. And then, mysteriously, a baby is born! You may have seen the movie, which was turned into a rather mediocre thriller, but the book is a true pro-life novel of ideas, showing what it would be like and what it would mean once we fully reject having children.
Illustration: From the bookstore Waterstone’s Twitter account.