US Battles Declining Fertility Rate

Sunday, 03 Feb 2013 04:15 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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The biggest problem facing America today isn’t immigration reform, gun control or the economy. It’s the country’s declining fertility rate.

In an article appearing in The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan V. Last, author of "What to Expect When No One's Expecting: American's Coming Demographic Disaster," presents a strong case that not enough babies being born is the underlying cause for many of the problems the country is dealing with today.

Simply put, the fertility rate is the number of children an average woman bears over her lifetime. The replacement rate is 2.1. If the average woman has more children than that, the population grows.

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Fewer, and it contracts.

According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America's total fertility rate today is 1.93 and hasn't been above the replacement rate in a sustained way since the early 1970s.

Low fertility rates also put the brakes on a country’s ability to innovate and defend itself. In his article, Last writes: “Low-fertility societies don't innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward healthcare. They don't invest aggressively because, with the average age skewing higher, capital shifts to preserving and extending life and then begins drawing down.

"They cannot sustain social-security programs because they don't have enough workers to pay for the retirees. They cannot project power because they lack the money to pay for defense and the military-age manpower to serve in their armed forces.”


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