Faith and Fertility vs. Plague of the Century
A reflection on what God said at the beginning of human history.
On Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of a child – a child who changed the course of history. Each birth is a sign of hope. But due to rapidly declining fertility, (driven by the loss of faith) there are fewer signs of hope each year.
Any discussion of demographics begins with a number – 2.1, also known as replacement-level fertility. That’s the number of children the average woman must have in her lifetime to maintain population equilibrium.
No industrialized nation is having enough children to replace current population. Since 1950, the worldwide fertility rate has fallen by almost half (from 4.7 births per woman to 2.4). The fertility rate for the European Union as a whole is 1.5. The United States isn’t far behind. Our fertility rate fell from a post- war high of 3.5 to 1.64 in 2020. The CDC reports the U.S birthrate is the lowest since 1909.
The consequences of falling fertility will be catastrophic.
Elon Musk, just named Time’s Person of the Year and one of the few leaders to think about demographics seriously, says, “If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble.” He isn’t exaggerating.
From the age of exploration to the industrial revolution, to the computer age and the space age, every advance in history has been accompanied by robust population growth. Declining fertility is terra incognita.
The population growth in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century spurred the industrial revolution. America’s booming population after the Civil War resulted in the transfer of industrial leadership to the Unites States. The post-World War II Baby Boom set the stage for prosperity through the 1980s.
Then we switched gears. Suddenly, children became inconvenient. The Pill came in 1960. With “The Population Bomb,” published in 1968, we began worrying about what was called over-population.
Roe v. Wade was a milestone in advancing the anti-life ethic. Instead of filling cradles with babies, abortuaries filled trash cans with fetal remains. In the U.S. alone, the death toll reached 63 million since 1973.
Falling fertility will soon lead to shrinking populations and an end to prosperity -- permanently. If you listen carefully, you can hear civilization beginning fall.
Healthy economies depend on young workers. In the United States, the proportion of youth to elderly keeps declining. The 52 million seniors of 2018 will become the 95 million of 2060. By then, there will be more over 65 than under 18.
Social Security and Medicare will be long gone. The challenge will be finding the workers to man assembly lines, deliver goods and services, act as caregivers and first responders and fill the thousand and one other functions to make society work.
We don’t have to wait 40 years to start seeing the effects of Demographic Winter. Everyone is begging for help. Amazon is paying $20 an hour for warehouse workers -- $40 an hour with overtime.
We blame the worker shortage on Democrats paying people not to work, and the fact that COVID is making us a nation of agoraphobes, and there’s truth to that. But there’s also a shrinking pool of young workers, due to the birth dearth.
What’s the root-cause of the flight from procreation? Urbanization, the rising cost of raising children and failure of family formation have all played a role. But the simple answer is so many in their childbearing years don’t want children.
A Pew Research Poll, whose results were released in November, showed 44% of Americans ages 18 to 49 who don’t have children say they’re unlikely to ever have them.
Look at who’s having large families: traditional Catholics, evangelicals, Orthodox Jews (especially Hasidim) and Mormons. It’s rare to find a family with more than two children without a strong religious orientation.
Falling fertility and the loss of religion go hand in hand. In most European nations, more than 50% of youth identify as having “no religion.” In the UK, it’s upwards of 70%.
According to a Gallup Poll released in March, for the first time in history, less than half of adult Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or another house of worship – a decline of 20 percentage points since 2000. For whom does the church bell toll? Not for thee, baby.
Procreation is an act of faith. We have children because we have faith in the future. Where does faith in the future come from? Faith.
At the beginning of history, God said “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” Following this commandment, and with faith in Divine Providence, the faithful have children, secure in the knowledge that despite wars, revolutions, depressions and natural disasters, God will make it right in the end.
Faith and fertility alone will vaccinate us against the plague of the century.