Throwing The Baby Out With The Economy

Has the bad economy got you thinking (consciously or maybe even unconsciously) about not having another child or perhaps remaining childless? If so, it looks like you’re not alone. As usual, Cheryl Russell at Demo Memo has tickled my brain into action with the presentation of some random statistics:

Here’s something interesting: In a study of the childbearing patterns of three cohorts of women–born in 1910, 1935, and 1960–the women born in 1910 were most likely to be childless at age 50, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (see Childbearing Differences among Three Generations of Women).

Among women born in 1910, one in five was childless at age 50 (19.7 percent). Among women born in 1960–members of the baby-boom generation, which earned a reputation for delaying childbearing or forgoing parenthood altogether–a smaller 15.6 percent were childless at age 50. Only 11.4 percent of women born in 1935 were childless at age 50.

So what gives with the women of 1910? The Great Depression. They entered their childbearing years just as the Depression began in 1929, and apparently many never found the economic stability in which to have children and raise a family.

What does this say about today’s young women, who are reaching childbearing age in the midst of the Great Recession? “The cohort moved into its key childbearing years during a significant recession,” says the National Center for Health Statistics. Marriage and fertility rates have been falling since 2007. Will today’s young women be the next “childless” generation?

It could be argued that because of overpopulation, a decline in fertility rates is not a bad thing. I’ve certainly made that case before. Having a child is probably the most environmentally destructive thing a human being can do if you want to look at it specifically in those terms. They are another you — with all the resource consumption and pollution that you bring to the table.

Plus, too many humans in one place is going to degrade the value of human life. Think about if you have one cat in your home vs. 1,000. Suddenly, the life of one cat doesn’t seem so significant in the scheme of things.

However, like most people, I am a bit guilty of wanting population decline anywhere but in my back yard. I don’t want to watch the geographical places and communities close to my heart turn into ghost towns. It’s a sad thought.

I’m sorry to report that I don’t know what my point with all of this is other than to present some meandering thoughts. You should blame Cheryl. She tickled my brain, and it sneezed. Now, I’m back in the clear. 🙂

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