Skip to comments.The Coming "Demographic Winter"
Posted on 01/14/2009 9:06:54 PM PST by Lorianne
[F]ewer human beings would mean fewer mouths to feed. It would also mean fewer entrepreneurs, fewer pioneers, fewer problem solvers. Which is why it is not an increase but the coming decrease in human population that should engender foreboding. For as Phillip Longman, a scholar of demographics and economics at the New America Foundation, observes, "Never in history have we had economic prosperity accompanied by depopulation."
And depopulation, like it or not, is just around the corner. That is the central message of a compelling new documentary, Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family. Longman is one of numerous experts interviewed in the film, which explores the causes and effects of one of what may be the most ominous reality of twenty-first-century life: the fall in human birth rates almost everywhere in the world.
Human fertility has been dropping for years and is now below replacement levelsthe minimum required to prevent depopulationin scores of countries, including China, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, and all of Europe. The world's population is still rising, largely because of longer life spansmore people live to old age than in the past. But with far fewer children being born today, there will be far fewer adults bearing children tomorrow. In some countries, the collapse has already begun. Russia, for example, is now losing 700,000 people a year.
Even in the United States, where birth rates are still (barely) at replacement level, there are hints of the dislocations to come. In Pittsburgh, reports the New York Times, deaths now outnumber births, and hospitals are closing obstetrics wards or converting them to acute care for the elderly. Pittsburgh's public school enrollment was 70,000 in the 1980s. It is 30,000 todayand falling.
By mid-century, the UN estimates, there will be 248 million fewer children than there are now. To a culture that has been endlessly hectored about the dangers of overpopulation, that might sound like welcome news. It isn't. No society gains when it loses its most precious resource, and no resource is more valuable than the human mind. The coming demographic winter will chill us all.
In 1965, the population of Italy was 52 million, of which 4.6 million, or just under 9 percent, were children younger than age 5. A decade later, that age group had shrunk to 4.3 millionabout 7.8 percent of Italians. By 1985, it was down to 3 million and 5.3 percent. Today, the figures are 2.5 million and 4.2 percent.
Young children are disappearing from Italian society, and the end isn't in sight. According to one estimate by the UN's Population Division, their numbers will drop to fewer than 1.6 million in 2020 and to 1.3 million by 2050. At that point, they will account for a mere 2.8 percent of the Italian nation.
Italy isn't alone. There are 1.7 million fewer young children in Poland today than there were in 1960, a 50 percent drop. In Spain 30 years ago, there were nearly 3.3 million young children; there are just 2.2 million today. Across Europe, there were more than 57 million children under age 5 in 1960; today, that age group has plummeted to 35 million, a decline of 38 percent.
Fertility ratesthe average number of children born per womanare falling nearly everywhere. More and more adults are deciding to have fewer children. Worldwide, reports the UN, there are 6 million fewer babies and young children today than there were in 1990. By 2015, according to one calculation, there will be 83 million fewer. By 2025, 127 million fewer. By 2050, the world's supply of the youngest children may have plunged by a quarter of a billion and will amount to less than 5 percent of the human family.
The reasons for this birth dearth are many. Among them:
As the number of women in the workforce has soared, many have delayed marriage and childbearing, or decided against them altogether. The Sexual Revolution, by making sex readily available without marriage, removed what for many men had been a powerful motive to marry. Skyrocketing rates of divorce have made women less likely to have as many children as in generations past. Years of indoctrination about the perils of "overpopulation" have led many couples to embrace childlessness as a virtue.
Result: a dramatic and inexorable aging of society. In the years ahead, the ranks of the elderly are going to swell to unprecedented levels, while the number of young people continues to dwindle. The working-age population will shrink, first in relation to the population of retirees, then in absolute terms.
A determined optimist might take this as good news. In theory, fewer people in the workforce should increase the demand for employees and thus keep unemployment low and the economy humming.
But the record tells a different story. In Japan, where the fall in fertility rates began early, the working-age population has been a diminishing share of the nation for 20 years. Yet for much of that period, unemployment has been up, not down.
"Similarly, in the United States, the number of people between the ages of 15 and 24 has been declining in relative terms since 1990," demographer Phillip Longman observed in the Harvard Business Review. "But the smaller supply has not made younger workers more valuable; their unemployment rate has increased relative to that of their older counterparts."
Far from boosting the economy, an aging population depresses it. As workers are taxed more heavily to support surging numbers of elders, they respond by working less, which leads to stagnation, which reduces economic opportunity still further. "Imagine that all your taxes went for nothing but Social Security and Medicare," says Longman in Demographic Winter, "and you still didn't have health care as a young person."
Gary Becker, a Nobel laureate in economics, emphasizes that nothing is more indispensable to growth than "human capital"the knowledge, skills, and experience of men and women. That is why baby booms are so often harbingers of economic expansion and vigor. And why businesses and young people drain away from regions where population is waning.
A world without children will be a poorer worldgrayer, lonelier, less creative, less confident. Children are a great blessing, but it may take their disappearance for the world to remember why.
Good find on this. Yes it’s concerning however I for one believe that this also reflects more astute and aware parental decisions. Often low-income is accompanied by low education and statistically higher rates of drop-out/crime and teenage pregnancies. Even low income/low education populous will be smarter about birth control and/or family planning.
Overall, seeing heavy industrial areas have population reduction results often in reduced violence and actual improved urban planning for the future. We already have a high rate of poverty in our country, better to have more opportunity for them
The end of European feudalism was due, in no small part, to depopulation as a result of the plague. Whole swathes of countryside were abandoned, but some cities thrived. Newly mobile skilled labor became increasingly valuable due to scarcity.
so this is how it ends
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
What’s sad is, is that there are so many women that are struggling to get pregnant. I struggled for four very long years and finally received a huge blessing. My husband and I were planning on having a large family, but things don’t always work out as planned. I still have a couple years left, so I’m hoping that Lord will bless us with a couple more.
It is not Goya's title, but I call this picture "Social Security".
Reduced population levels are from economic realities and the feminist movement in the last 35-40 years.
Sounds like just another reason that our Social Security ponzi scheme is coming to an end.
actually... how it BEGINS!
I'm going to have to call you on that one.
American "poverty", as defined by the government, which is where all the "poverty" numbers come from, is a joke.
You may find an exception here and there, but true poverty is nonexistent in America in any relevant way.
Thoughtful post. Thanks.
We will kill off the elderly. Count on it. It's the next wave.
I'm curious as I think you may be spot on.
You have to be kidding me. First of all a majority of stats on poverty and homelessness and illness and uninsured residents are provided by non-profits - often even by church affiliated non-profits. So go use that little thing called Google and check out issues for yourself
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