May 20, 2018

YOU CAN’T BLAME THE ECONOMY ANY MORE: U.S. Fertility Rate Fell to a Record Low, for a Second Straight Year.

Some actuarial thoughts here.

I wonder whether there’s something else at play here: could there be an emerging split, with a rising percent of Americans believing that the work of raising the next generation is all well and good, but reserved for other, more willing people? After all, once getting married and starting a family is no longer the “normal” thing to do in one’s twenties, once women start to view a baby as a “capstone” following career success, as a recent Atlantic article suggested, once, indeed, having children becomes a choice one must make, it becomes all the clearer that this is a choice which requires not just financial sacrifice, but sacrifice of free time that may have become particularly valued for pursuing a hobby or working extra hours for advancement’s sake. And recall, again, that the considerably greater drops in births among ethnic minorities, from much-higher-than-whites to only-a-little-bit-higher, suggests that even this narrative isn’t quite right, and raises questions of fertility rates by family income that are much harder to pin down and make for much more uncomfortable discussions.

But (if I haven’t already exhausted your patience with my charts) here’s the bottom line: it already is the case that declining birth rates will affect Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, un(der)funded public pensions, and the like. How an aging population will affect a country’s economic vitality and ability to innovate is a source of much hand-wringing. But if there is a widening economic and social/cultural gap between families and non-families, this will also impact how we allocate resources, and lead to further disputes about that allocation, that will make figuring the whole thing out much harder.

Indeed. And I had some related thoughts here.

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