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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Mixing Generations to Cope with Aging and a Low Birth Rate

European and East Asian countries are, in particular, concerned about the rapid aging of their populations, which is created by a combination of increasing longevity, very low fertility, and relatively little immigration. I have recently discussed the very low birth rate as being closely related to gender inequality in the home--women find it hard to combine a career and a family and many choose the former over the latter. But what if help were close by, not in the form of spousal help, but in the form of older people with time on their hands? This is what popped into my mind as I read a very interesting article by Tracy Moran at Her focus is not so much on helping young mothers, as it is on the way in which  deliberately designed multigenerational communities can provide help to older people who might otherwise be left behind by the younger generation.
With a host of bold new plans for multigenerational living, you too might spend your golden years cavorting with tykes you’re not related to. Thanks to the housing crisis of 2008, increasing urbanization and an aging population that will see roughly 98 million golden oldies in the U.S. by 2060, the debate about how and where we age is taking center stage. Designers are increasingly looking at how intergenerational housing and retirement facilities can be combined in healthy, interactive and transparent ways. Meanwhile, older ideas like cohousing — a Scandinavian innovation that features generations growing up side by side and sharing common space — are getting a new life.
It was the Scandinavian innovation that put me in mind of the research by demographer Hill Kulu at the University of Liverpool in the UK. He has written about the fact that residential context matters when it comes to decisions that Scandinavian families (his research has focused largely on Finland and other Nordic countries) make about having a first child, in particular. Size of apartments and proximity to grandparents and other family resources can make a big difference to a young couple. So, it seems like a reasonable hypothesis that very low birth rates might be increased a bit in places outside of Scandinavia through the kinds of innovations discussed in Moran's article. Here we have the germ of a new type of population policy.

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