Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lowest Birth Rate Ever! What Didn’t Get Reported…

When the National Center for Health Statistics reported the lowest birthrate ever recorded in the US in 2011 many media outlets went into alarmist mode with this new data. An example of this is the editorializing done by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe who warned that
when birth rates decline this is what materializes: economic stagnation, dwindling innovation, a declining lifestyle, the exploding health and pension costs of an aging population, and the ever-heavier taxes needed to maintain the government safety net when there are fewer workers and entrepreneurs…And intergenerational conflict and loneliness.
Well we’ll see about that. However, what was not widely reported was that there was some very good news in this report — births to unmarried teens hit a record low and the age group that was having more babies than previously reported was the 35 to 44 age group.

Why is this good news? I think most people would agree that it's good for women and it's good for society if women postpone childbearing until they are ready, both financially and emotionally, to care for the children that they choose to have. Though OB/GYNs and most healthcare professionals will counsel women to have children early—while they are in their most fertile years—the fact remains that women in their late teens and early twenties generally don't feel ready to have children or they have yet to find partners with which to raise a family. And though it's true that you should start procreating early in life if you're planning on having a large family of five + children, increasingly that is not what women, and men, want for themselves. Studies show that only 33 percent of Americans consider the ideal family size to be three + children. That's a huge change from the 1940s to the 1960s, when roughly 70 percent said that three or more children would be desirable.

When women postpone childbearing they generally do so by choice, even though it may not be a conscious day-to-day choice. And when they make those series of decisions to hold off on parenthood until they feel they are ready they become the intentional parent. The one who prepares the nest, physically, financially, and emotionally, is engaged in a conscious decision-making process that happily welcomes a child into the world. Sometimes it will take a woman many years to get to that point —where motives, desire, and resources meet. And, as these new birth stats show, that point might be in your late thirties or early forties.

The good news is we now have an age 35+ population that is healthy enough to carry a baby to term, although with the 40 + group it remains fairly risky and rare. But it is still an option for some of those 40 + women. And we also live in a country where there is the option to postpone parenthood until we are ready to raise our children or to forgo children altogether.

According to this report, it looks like that's exactly what is happening.


Adria said...

This poor planet is crowded enough.
I decided a long, long time ago not to have children, and at 43, I am very happy with this decision. I think the low birth rate isn't reporter because those who do have children hate that the rest of us aren't reproducing. It's 2013 and I still have to defend my childfree status. The rest of society views my choice as going against nature. I view it as being responsible.

Kalai said...

Hi Laura, did you happen to read this article? Super condescending and downright offensive to childfree folks:

It's making quite a number of rounds today!