What happens — politically, economically — when people have fewer babies? Pundits from across the political spectrum are suddenly wrestling with the question.
Derek Thompson at the Atlantic started things off by suggesting there was a “doom loop” of liberalism — a widespread trend in Western nations that should cause significant concern: Education and feminism lower fertility, and so countries turn to immigration to make up the difference in the labor force. As the number of immigrants increases, it becomes harder to integrate them, which gives rise to blowback populism.
Ross Douthat of the New York Times fired back, respectfully suggesting that secular liberal societies could incentivize fertility of native citizens by deploying some fairly minor policy tweaks, including bigger financial incentives for childbearing — and by promoting different family norms, like increased involvement in religious communities.
And now Bryce Covert, writing from a feminist perspective, has written an op-ed for the Times that tackles the issue from a slightly different angle, arguing that the Trump administration’s curtailment of access to free contraception could have serious, negative economic consequences as women shift from jobs to child-rearing.
The reality of declining fertility turns out to be quite complex. To begin with, it should be noted that while fertility declines in the 20th century were driven by a mix of improved contraception and declining desired fertility, 21st-century declines have occurred with virtually no correspondent decline in women’s’ desired number of children: Women in America continue to report wanting to have more children than they in fact have, and the number has not declined very much in this century; indeed, they desire well above replacement-level amounts of children.
But we don’t make it easy for them to act on that desire. Far from a simple story of secular societies liberating women from Read More Here