It’s practically axiomatic that Tradcons Never Learn. Today, they don’t learn about the causes of low birth rate. Michael Barone is a fairly typical specimen of the Old Guard who predicts/hopes the birth rate is about to rise because the economy is good:
By Michael Barone, July 27, 2018
Sometimes a society’s values change sharply with almost no one noticing. In 1968, according to a Gallup survey, 70 percent of American adults said that a family of three or more children was “ideal” — about the same number as Gallup surveys starting in 1938. That number helps explain the explosive baby boom after Americans were no longer constrained by depression and world war.
Those values and numbers didn’t last. By 1978, Gallup reported that only 39 percent considered three or more children “ideal.” The numbers have hovered around there ever since, spiking to just 41 percent in the late-1990s tech boom.
He disproves himself right off the start, as Tradcons are wont to. 1978 was one of the Carter years in which President Jimmy Carter worked such economic magic that economists had to invent a new term “stagflation” to describe the misery. And people then had the same opinion of family size as during the heights of the tech boom? It seems that contra Baby Boomer philosophy, birth rate beliefs were NOT based upon the state of the economy.
Similarly, the 1970s showed sharp increases in female workforce participation, divorce and single-parent households, as well as decreased participation in voluntary organizations — all unanticipated.
He obviously senses the connection because he brings this up yet doesn’t go anywhere with it, unlike his pundit peer John Hawkins, recently covered here.
Birth rates typically drop during recessions and rise a bit during booms. They did drop notably from 2007 to 2009. But the latest data don’t show a rebound, despite significant growth and record-low unemployment.
Barone is astonished that people act as though there’s more to the reproduction decision than the next four years of economic prospects. What more does a man need to make babies than extra money and a crib in the spare bedroom? A young, fertile wife that won’t abandon him when she gets unhappy? A gov’t that won’t take his children away in violation of anything that might possibly be called due process? Nah, that’s crazy talk.
The trend varies among demographic groups. Native-born Hispanics and blacks used to have birth rates above the replacement rate (2.1 births per woman). Now they’re below replacement, almost as low that of as native-born whites and Asians, which are down only a bit. The immigrant birth rate remains above replacement level among blacks, but only barely above among Hispanics, and below among whites and Asians.
One possible consequence: Those often-gleeful predictions that whites will soon be a minority will not be realized so soon, or maybe ever. Nor is it clear, as sociologist Richard Alba has suggested, whether often-intermarrying Hispanics and Asians will see themselves as aggrieved minorities.
It’s as if all the government’s social policies for the last couple generations have been human extinction, not just white extinction. Rarely does a good economy overcome a centralized bureaucracy.
During the sluggish 2008-2013 economy, young Americans stayed put in tiny child-unfriendly apartments in hip central-coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, and paid high rents resulting from stringent environmental restrictions. This was hailed as a move toward progressive attitudes. But evidently not. As Newgeography proprietor Joel Kotkin has noted, since growth returned, young people have been heading to child-friendly suburbs and exurbs, ditching subway cards for SUV fobs.
Barone thinks Democrats are poor people who will vote Republican once they get a better job. There is no ideology, there is only the economy?
The paragraph doesn’t even make sense. Young Americans didn’t have much money so they lived in trendy, artificially high-rent areas? Then they moved to the cheaper suburbs when good economies provided more money?
All of which raises the possibility of current stubbornly low birth rates being on the verge of a rise, away from the economically and culturally divided low-birth-rate society described in Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart,” and toward something suggested by Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.”
For the moment, these countertrends are just possibilities. But since persistently low birth rates lead to population loss, economic stagnation and low creativity, let’s hope some of them come true.
The words of a pundit afraid that the bread and circuses aren’t working anymore. News flash, even an awesome economy cannot compensate for women being too busy with careers and envy of men to bother with having babies. Children are not SUVs, they do not come from factories. It takes a marriage to produce children. Housewives. There is no substitute.
Instead of hoping that a better economy will produce a higher birth rate, Michael Barone should hope the gov’t will stop punishing men for having kids. He should possibly even advocate for patriarchy, if low birth rates bother him. But instead, he sees the economy improving and hopes men will start… start… asexually producing babies unto their own destruction? Sharp learning curve ahead, Mr. Barone.
The epitaph of William Buckley conservatism: money couldn’t buy love.