Not Enough Babies

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Penna Dexternever miss viewpoints

Headlines about the fact that the fertility rate is falling worldwide have government leaders worried. As workforces shrink, economic growth slows, and companies and government entities fail to sufficiently fund pensions, demographers are scrambling to offer explanations – and solutions.

The fertility rate has to do with the number of babies a woman has over her lifetime. It is believed that, for the first time, fertility has dropped below global replacement.

There are many reasons: Longer lifespans with more children surviving into adulthood, women’s higher education levels, women’s greater participation in the workforce, economic uncertainty beginning with the 2008 financial crisis.

The Wall Street Journal points to another factor:  a “’second demographic transition,’ a society-wide reorientation toward individualism that puts less emphasis on marriage and parenthood, and makes fewer or no children more acceptable.”

Melissa Kearney, an economist at the University of Maryland, told The Wall Street Journal that raising children is no more expensive now than in the past. She says parents simply have different “perspectives” and “perceived constraints.” Professor Kearney, the author of a recent book, The Two-Parent Privilege, points out that highly educated parents spend more time with their children than in the past and therefore may want fewer of them. She says, “The intensity of parenting is a constraint.”

Another scholar with the same last name — spelled differently — is the American Enterprise Institute’s Timothy Carney. His book is Family Unfriendly: How Our Culture Made Raising Kids Much Harder Than It Needs to Be. He and his wife have five children.

Tim Carney’s recent Washington Post op-ed recommends families have at least four children. He writes: “There’s nothing high-quality about the intensive parenting that is typical in today’s middle and upper-middle classes.” He recommends letting kids “off the leash,” ditching the daily after-school “race,” in favor of “independent play” because it’s fun, less exhausting, and helps children learn to cope with stressors (like when little brother smashes your record-breaking Lego tower).penna's vp small

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