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2007.03.05

Comments

Gareth Wilson

The NYT article is correct about Europe but wrong about the US. If every immigrant left the USA today, it's fertility would drop - but would still remain far higher than any European country, even the family-friendly Nordics. Even the non-Hispanic white population is more fertile than their European counterparts. As for those family-friendly policies, they help fertility a bit, but they've never been able to push it above the 2.1 replacement level.

drunken monkey

I thought that too -- fertility rates in the United States are quite a bit higher than European rates, and higher than Canadian rates as well. The total fertility rate (the average number of children that would be born per woman if all women lived to the end of their childbearing years and bore children according to a given fertility rate at each age) for the U.S. was estimated at 2.09 for 2006 (the non-Hispanic white population's rate is close to France's), which is just below replacement level. Immigration means that the U.S. is still expected to be a rare developed country showing population growth. By comparison, Canada's rate is 1.61, Germany's rate is 1.39, France's rate is 1.84 and Japan's rate is 1.4.

The American fertility rate seems to not be as tied to how well mothers are supported, if my anecdotal experience talking to American women holds true across the population.

Lisa

DM, I think you and I have different anecdotal observations; I know plenty of mothers who stopped at one or two because managing the work/life balance was freakin' exhausting. That's replacement-level reproduction, but that's not population growth.

I am wondering why growing the population is such a priority, compared to keeping it stable and replacement-level, and clearly need to do more research into the pros and cons.

drunken monkey

That's kind of what I meant but did not get across very clearly, it seems. The mothers I know have talked about feeling like they're doing it wrong either way, whether they stay home or work, or like they're seen as taking advantage of their employer if they take maternity leave, or like they don't get adequate maternity leave in any case, or like there's a whole lot of concern about their children when they are fetuses and not so much once they're out in the world. The United States has higher fertility rates than Europe, but I don't think it's because they are more supportive of mothers.

Shotrock

As more women joined the work force, they became less dependent on men’s earnings.

Exactly. Women, particularly educated women, no longer have to get married to ensure their economic well-being. And so they no longer have to trade economic stability for what men have traditionally wanted in return: a hot meal, a clean house, sex, and an heir.

I agree that the U.S. workplace needs to get a lot more family-friendly, and fast. But some of what's happening may be that which often dare not speak its name - childless by choice. We still have very traditional ideas of family and women's roles (which is why the workplace attitude towards both is so fracked up) and one of them is that women love kids and just can't wait to have 'em. I mean, these days, a woman is still more likely to come right out at a cocktail party and say "My dad's gay" than "My husband and I don't want kids." (I know because I'm a single woman who is very outspoken about my lack of a biological clock, and some married women who don't want kids practically WHISPER this to me. And then they're thrilled that they found another member of the *INKs Club).

One of the things you said got me thinking: I know plenty of mothers who stopped at one or two because managing the work/life balance was freakin' exhausting. A friend of mine is a mother of three - first two planned, youngest an Oops. Before the first one, she knew she wanted 2 kids. I visited her after the second, and said "God, I don't know how you do it." She sort of bitterly chuckled, looked right into my eyes, and said: "Shotrock, don't ever regret not having kids. If I knew then what I know now..." She stopped there. Frankly, I thought her remark was extremely brave. I mean, how many small families could be the result of "I stopped at one because motherhood is a futhamucka of a job and I've discovered I hate it"? The issue is getting anyone to admit it.

N.B. Not that this is the case with the women you referenced, Lisa - as I said, your anecdote just got me to thinking.

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