Monday, April 25, 2016


Trends Tell the Future–Children Around the World and Among Religious Jews

image(Washington Times) American fertility has reached a record low... Overall, America’s total fertility rate fell to just 1.86 births per woman, the lowest since 1986 and a 1 percent decrease from 2012. That figure puts the U.S. on the same course with many Western European nations and Japan, where the birth rate has fallen below what demographers call the “replacement rate,” usually around 2.1 births per woman, needed to keep a country’s population from falling. The U.S. last had a total fertility rate of 2.1 births in 2007.

(LA Times) In 2015, the nation’s birth rate rose 1%, the first increase in 7 years.  But that wasn’t enough babies to keep the U.S. population steady.  Calculations show that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would give birth to 1,861.5 babies over their entire lives. But in order for a generation to replace itself, those 1,000 women would need to have 2,100 babies.

(The Japan Times) In Japan, there has been a generation of birth rates below replacement level.  The population has begun to decline and the proportion of people of working age continues to decrease. The birthrate is well below replacement level. Japanese people are aging fast while life expectancy continues to increase. The implications for the Japanese economy and for Japan’s position in the world should be obvious.

Japanese political and business leaders prefer not to discuss the long-term issues.  The decline in the number of young Japanese people has implications for high schools and universities as well as for industry and commerce. It also means that it will become more and more difficult to fund pensions for old people and to find carers for them.  Japan faces massive demographic problems that will not go away.

(Gizmodo) What are the long term effects of China’s one child policy?  It's much easier to reduce the fertility rate than to increase it. So the growth rate of China's population will probably continue to go down — and the population actually shrink.  "If you count the so-called ripple effect and echo effect, it could be endless,". Within 200 or 300 years, the population of China could "diminish very dramatically," with the population being cut in half if current trends continue. Usually, population experts consider 2.1 births per woman the minimum amount needed to maintain a stable population size, so China's rate of 1.5 per woman is one-third below "replacement level." This means every generation is smaller than the last, and the number goes down exponentially.

Thus, even if the one-child policy has had a less dramatic effect than the Chinese government likes to claim, it could have a huge effect in the next century.  A general population decline, around the world, might not be a bad thing, since "we have enough people to go around," but if the trend continues too long, "that's a different story."

And what’s the story in Israel?

(Jewish Virtual Library) Israel has the highest birth rate in the developed world.  As opposed to the international average of 1.7 children per woman, Israel's rate stands at 3 children per woman because of Israel's large Orthodox Jewish population (that have large families of 5 or more children – however even secular Israelis commonly have 2-3 children families).  Israel also provides many services and child benefits including job protection before and after maternity leave that make raising a child more attractive to people who live there. 

Trends tell the future.  In the modern world where birth control is the norm, and abortion to cover mistakes, the decision to have children and incorporate children into our lives is a personal choice with intense societal implications.  If one’s culture or society or religion does not emphasize having children and building for the future… then we see the results of all the choice modern medicine has granted women –> no children (or not enough to maintain the population we have.)

Think countries might start to outlaw contraception if birth rates fall too low?

(The Guardian) Iran is seeking to reverse progressive laws on family planning by outlawing voluntary sterilization and restricting access to contraceptives.  Iran has pursued an effective birth control program for over two decades. It included subsidized vasectomies, free condoms and affordable contraceptives, as well as countrywide education on sexual health and family planning.  A parliamentary bill under consideration to increase fertility rates and prevent population decline will ban all surgeries intended for permanent contraception, except in cases in which there are threats to physical health. The legislation will also slash state funding for birth control programs which provided subsidies for modern contraceptives.

A second proposed legislation, the comprehensive population and exaltation of family bill, “instructs all private and public entities to prioritize, in sequence, men with children, married men without children and married women with children when hiring for certain jobs,” The bill will also tighten the divorce laws, which are already heavily in favor of men.

That’s one way, one bad way, to go about it.  Another way in Russia is to pay women to have children.

Or you could have a culture that looks to build the future like Judaism.


  1. Hm, I think it is generally accepted that when there is a higher status and secular education of women, the birth/fertility rate of a nation tends to decrease.

  2. Other countries frown on too many children whether boys or girls. China didn't allow girls, but when they realized too many boys didn't have girls to marry and produce more boys, they relinquished. It may be that greater education and life awareness decreases child birth: however, in Israel the govt. supports women giving birth, even when they are members of the Knesset: Tzippy Hatovely, MK Gamliel, for example. Even the PM congratulated Tzippy on her recent birth of a girl.

  3. Anonymous - there's two factors that are indeed clear trends. 1 - when women have easy and affordable access to birth control - they (generally) use it, reducing family sizes to 2-3. 2 - In the West women are delaying parenthood for career, and since fertility declines significantly with age, simply delaying to 30 or 35 often guarantees a 1 child household.

    Which is fine...but undermines the future of that culture or community or country when birthrates fall significantly below replacement level.


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