Economists explained to us long ago why fertility rates around the world have fallen. Characteristically, these explanations (part of the demographic transition theory) occurred after the fact. Also characteristically, they’ll likely fail to predict future fertility trends. From NPR:
The newest status symbol for the nation’s most affluent families is fast becoming a big brood of kids.
Historically, the country-club set has had the smallest number of kids. But in the past 10 years, the number of high-end earners who are having three or more kids has shot up nearly 30 percent.
Some say the trend is driven by a generation of over-achieving career women who have quit work and transferred all of their competitive energy to baby making.
They call it “competitive birthing.”
I’ve mentioned this a few times in comments. The higher status (higher economic bracket) women I know tend to have three or four kids instead of the once-popular one or two. My personal observations did not form a database big enough to define a real trend, but apparently it is.
(Hat tip to KO)
A new fad is developing. When economists are asked to explain the American baby boom of the ’50s, which was counter to the economic transition theory, they cobble together all kinds of excuses. The explanation I’ve yet to see is that our mothers had an average of five kids because it was hip to do so at the time. I mentioned the potential for this to happen in my book a couple of years ago:
Having fewer children became a fad. This implies that if a fad comes along in the future saying that having more children is the “in” thing to do, then we are going to see a fertility spike. For example, fertility rates for new immigrants from Mexico remain high because they are unaware that large families are not “in.” They have not realized yet that their new peers in their new culture frown upon large families. Their children will not keep those same fertility rates, being more aware of their cultural norms.
I don’t know how a fad can be truncated. I don’t know what makes them burn out. I don’t even know what gets them started! I do know this much, if powdered wigs or penis gourds ever catch on, you can bet your right arm that people will be wearing them, and that’s no joke.
Making fun of Hummer drivers may be somewhat effective, but I personally do not want to go around making fun of mothers and babies. If the news would pick up on this trend and point out that it is just a fad, then maybe some women will consciously realize why they want three or four kids and choose to do otherwise. I would not be the least bit surprised to see a big fertility spike in the next decade as the fad spreads down the hierarchy ladder.
Russia continues its efforts to bribe women into having more children. Note that they do not have to bribe men, who apparently are more patriotic, to have sex on conception day. As I discussed in this post and this one, it would be more cost effective to let the poor of the world become citizens of wealthier nations in an organized and controlled fashion than to try to goad women who just happen to already live inside your boundary to have children:
And finally, there is the question of endless economic growth tied to endless population growth. I’ve touched on this before. Intelligent, controlled immigration depopulates one country, maintains population in another, and fuels poverty reduction in both countries. There are billions of deeply impoverished people in the world ready to rise on up.