First the Population Bomb, Now the Birth Dearth

I spent much of my growing up years being deathly afraid. I was terrified of what I’d read in the 1960’s popular book, The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich.  That book sent me to bed afraid that there would be so many people on earth we would not all be able to live here. I was especially afraid of the year 2000, which proved to be not that bad after all.

For decades since, that’s been the one problem I’m the most afraid of.  I always note that whenever a Democrat gets into the office of President, the first thing they do is to put back funds to the UN Population Fund. And when the George Bushes got in, the first thing they both did was to revoke the funds.

But in 2013, I’ve been reading about a different problem.  Now it’s a birth dearth that’s got demographers running scared.  They point to Japan’s plunging birth rate and increasingly aged population.  In Japan they’ve been in recession for twenty years, and the biggest problem there is that so few woman want to have children. And unlike in the US, the Japanese haven’t opened up their borders to immigration, so they’ve remained stagnant.

In a story in the WSJ over the weekend, the headline was “America’s Baby Bust,” and it detailed the problems with countries that aren’t growing. “Low fertility societies don’t innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care. They don’t invest aggressively because, with the average age skewing higher, capital shifts to preserving and extending life and then begins drawing down.”

Not enough workers will pay into the social security programs to pay the elders.  And in the US, we’re doing much better than most modern countries, with a total fertility rate of 2.07. China is at 1.64, Japan 1.32, the UK 1.83. Even India is only at 2.73 and they’re dropping fast. Very fast.

Our Hispanic immigrants provide the only hope of us not declining, but their rate is dropping. In just three years, between 2007 and 2010, Mexican-born American’s birthrate dropped 23%.

So now I don’t think about the population bomb any more. I think about how much less traffic there will be on the highways and that we won’t run out of resources as fast.