Yet another man is wringing his hands and hollering “MOAR BEBEHS!!! MOAR!!!”. Refreshingly, it isn’t in the context of anti-choice and forced-birth-after-rape policies. No, this time it’s a New York Times columnist lamenting the dramatic declines in the US birth rate and how it will weaken us as a nation. He seems to think that we’ve all stopped having babies for decadent reasons and what we need is to be more pro-family. FOR AMERICA.
I responded to the whole thing over at The Broad Side today:
The lowest U.S. birth rate ever recorded should give us all pause. Why is this happening? What is occurring in the U.S. environment that’s making people less likely to have babies? Mr. Douthat does a bit of wild finger pointing, blaming everything from the poor economy to the decoupling of children from people’s idea of a good marriage, which he somehow manages to tie into gay marriage. I’d say that’s a bit of a reach given the number of gay couples I know who are raising children, but never mind that. The part I really want to get to is when Mr. Douthat starts talking about concerted policy efforts the U.S. could attempt to nudge the birth rate back up.
Here’s what he says:
Government’s power over fertility rates is limited, but not nonexistent. America has no real family policy to speak of at the moment, and the evidence from countries like Sweden and France suggests that reducing the ever-rising cost of having kids can help fertility rates rebound. Whether this means a more family-friendly tax code, a push for more flexible work hours, or an effort to reduce the cost of college, there’s clearly room for creative policy to make some difference.
Creative policies. Uh-huh. Actually, there’s no need to be creative at all. There are three, simple-to-the-point-of-being-trite policies we could enact that would make having a child easier. Moreover, none of them involve tax breaks or contorting work schedules so over-extended parents live a relay-like existence of handing off children between shifts.
Check out the whole thing over at The Broad Side!