This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for awhile in response to an article from the NYTs back in November and a post from Reaction Norm. I’m a little late to the game, but the issues haven’t changed in the past month and a half…
By way of prologue, I’ve always wanted to have children and plan to do so once my partner and I move back to the good ole’ US of A. It’s never really been a serious question for either of us. And until recently I had always figured we’d have two kids, but lately after reading up a bit more on demographics I think 3-4 is more appropriate (although my wife thinks I’m nuts, but read the analysis below and see what you think…she may very well be right!)
So the argument for not having children whilst married seems to be, in part, a financial one. Children are expensive, retirement is expensive, so let’s put money towards an ideal retirement instead of having kids. The other primary argument is with respect to time. Kids take a lot of time, careers and hobbies take a lot of time, I (and my spouse) want a career and hobbies (and the money to enjoy those hobbies) so forget the kids let’s just focus on ourselves.
The other offhanded sort of reason for not having children is: “And if we decide against [having children], it will partly be out of concern for the welfare of others. My husband in particular worries that creating more human lives strains an already overtaxed planet.” (From the NYT article).
Yea, well that’s all well and good for trying to make oneself feel better about the decision (one has to wonder why couples deciding not to have children feel they need to provide a litany of reasons to mollify their apparent feelings of guilt). However, the truth of the matter is you wouldn’t be having the 7 billionth child in some 3rd world country, but in a 1st world country. And there are major demographic issues in all 1st world countries that threaten the stability and economic well being of those countries and the ability of the countries to provide support for an ageing population (e.g, Japan is a worst case scenario!).
With respect to the USA, we’ve always thought of ourselves immune to the demographic problems that are facing countries such as Italy and Japan due to massive amounts of immigration. However, it has become evident over the past 5 years that US demographics are becoming more European like. Whilst a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is required to maintain a constant population (not even a growing one!), the fertility rate in the US has dropped to 1.9 and there is a fear we will head to a European-like 1.4-1.6.
So what’s the big deal if the US starts to look like Europe fertility wise? The problem is that with a declining population and an increase in the number of retirees (read baby boomers) that live longer (thanks biomedical research!), an increasing number of tax paying workers are required to support the retired through social security and medicare (it’s discussed in a bit more depth here if you’re interested). This demographic time bomb is set to hobble the economies of the European Union (see e.g, Italy, Japan and Spain for a prelude). Is this the future we want for all of Europe or the USA? What would be the global effect of the US economy losing its dynamism because there’s not enough workers to support an aging population? You think our current economic situation is bad? You just have to look to parts of Europe or Japan to see how much worse it can get if left alone. And the scale would be much grander in the US due to the size of the US economy and our role in security (for better or worse) throughout the world.
Thus, while your life may be more enjoyable and you may make it further in your career more easily by not having children (but seriously, who are you kidding, are you some fucking wonder dynamo that is needed to save the world? Even Einstein had children, one before he published his groundbreaking special relativity shiznit in 1905). The decision not to have children is selfish (i.e, by definition thinking only of oneself and not others e.g, your country and all the elderly that require support) and unpatriotic; and collectively it is undermining the economic health and security of your country (if it’s a 1st world country) and the world (assuming you think it’s a good thing that the west/US are/is the dominant military power, by no way a forgone conclusion!).
How’s that for some over dramatic shit!
So get in the sack and start making babies already!