This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Will the American Family Wither on the Vine?

Justin Stoler of the University of Miami pointed me to a lengthy article posted New Year's Eve by Joel Kotkin, an entrepreneurial author/commentator who focuses especially on issues related to demographics. His latest book is The Next 100 Million: America in 2050. I should note that this book came out in 2010, at which point the US population was enumerated at just less than 309 million. So, on that basis, he would project the population in 2050 to be 409 million. Just recently, the Census Bureau revised its population projection downward a bit and they expect the 2050 US population to be just under 400 million. That's not exactly the point of his article, but it is relevant, and here's why. The title of his article is "Demography as destiny: The vital American family." As you begin reading the article, you have a sense of gloom that the country is falling apart:
If birthrates continue to decline, Western nations may devolve into impoverished and enervated nursing homes. And without strong families, children are likely to be more troubled and less productive as adults.
Given the stakes, Americans must forgo political squabbles and focus on practical ways to remove barriers to marriage and child-rearing. One crucial component for strong birthrates is steady economic growth. Before the 2008 economic collapse, the U.S. fertility rate was 2.12, the highest in 40 years. But the tumultuous economic problems since then have helped drive the fertility rate to 1.9 per woman, the lowest since the economic malaise era under President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.
He goes on to a litany of other issues that some people believe are associated with low birth rates and an aging population. As you read the article, you have the clear feeling that, in his mind, the American family is going to hell in a hand basket and the country is doomed. But, no:
Fortunately, the long-term prognosis is not all bad. Pew Research Center reports that the emerging millennial generation rank being good parents, owning a home and having a good marriage as their top three priorities. Generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, in their book Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America, suggest that the younger generation is as family-oriented as their elders, albeit with a greater emphasis on shared responsibilities and more flexible gender roles.
Whew! That's a relief. He finally helped to explain why it is that rather than declining into oblivion, we expect there to be nearly 100 million more Americans in 2050 than there were in 2010.

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