Are children a choice or an inevitable milestone?

Newsweek

At one point, children were an inevitable milestone for the majority of families across the globe. The turning point for the United States? The 2008 economic crisis.

Reports show that the U.S. birthrate has fallen to its lowest level since accurate numbers were kept, beginning in the 1920’s. Our lower fertility rates now match those rates of other developed countries. In 2007, the fertility rate in America was 2.12, the highest of any advanced country. Today, the rate has dropped to 1.9. Other countries are experiencing similar declines, maybe not quite as sharp, but declines nonetheless.

Newsweek discusses the leading “global causes of postfamilialism.” For one, “the rush of people worldwide into cities…has ushered in prosperity for hundreds of millions, allowing families to be both smaller and more prosperous.” Improvements in contraception led to its widespread usage. For many women this coincided with a move away from religion, the focus being on maintaining a successful marriage rather than reproducing to meet the criteria of a religious interpretation of a successful marriage. And most importantly, in my opinion, as we saw “women’s rights largely secured in…their seats in the classroom, the statehouse, and the boardroom…children have ceased being an economic or cultural necessity for many or an eventual outcome of sex.”

These trends are apparent not just within our own borders, but world-wide, especially in other developed nations. For a country like Japan, where it is projected that by 2050 there will be more people over the age of eighty than under the age of fifteen, the decline in reproduction raises serious concerns. A bulk of its revenue goes to services for senior citizens. What does this mean for the country’s youth? What does this mean for the country itself – its development, growth, or lack thereof?

In Germany, thirty percent of women say that they do no intend to have children. Many Americans express similar sentiments about marriage as an increasing number characterize the exchanging of vows as “obsolete.” Yet even strong marriage-supporters do not attribute the same value to child-rearing. In fact, only forty-one percent of marriage-supporters say children are important for a marriage, whereas in 1990, the numbers were much higher at sixty-five percent.

Do we see this as a positive change for countries that are over-populated? Should we attribute the widespread decline in reproductive rates to financial difficulties, or are we down-sizing because our ideologies are changing?

Maybe we like seeing more women in the classroom, the statehouse, the boardroom. It’s becoming clear that women are occupied and pleasantly distracted by these demanding environments. And childbirth, it seems, will only occur if they so choose.

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2 comments

  1. I believe the reason for the decline in reproductive rates is the play of both of these two broad categories, financial changes and change in ideologies, that so many other factors fall under. These other sub-factors include: the cost of raising children (especially college tuition), the fact that people are waiting to get married until later in life, and other financial problems such as affording a house, paying off debt and the difficulties in finding/maintaining a job to afford having a family. It seems like the decline in reproductive rates is generally a good thing for over-populated countries but as Amanda noted above, this decline will ultimately cause shifts in other aspects including government spending for certain programs, health insurance policies, etc. Too severe a shift in these other aspects could cause an array of problems if adjustments are not made quickly.
    One thing I am glad to see that kind of stems from this decrease, is the general acceptance that women are allowed to be in control over their priorities. For so long, it was this mandatory cycle for women: go to school, get a job, get married, have kids and put job on back burner and then try and go back to work or don’t. Now it is more socially acceptable for women to decide what they want to do and not rely on what society expects them to do.

  2. To answer the question posed in the title, I believe that children are a choice AND an inevitable milestone. While I certainly respect people that choose not to have children, in my mind, having children is part of the cycle of life. A lot of the things we work for in life, are in pursuit of eventually being able to support a family, and children are a supposed part of that family. At the same time, the choice involved is about when and how many children to have.

    Women have more liberty and power than ever, and it is simply not the way it used to be, where women were expected to be home to care for the kids and make that their priority. This factor, coupled with harder economic times, lead to an inevitable decrease in fertility rates. I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing, with our country making transitions in resources; natural and financial, over the next period of years. I think that overall, the lower fertility rates are a necessary outcome of the circumstances of the times that we live in, not so much a choice to have fewer.

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