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Selfish singles are good for society.

My latest in the Guardian is about that “Rise of Post-Familialism” study that has everyone in a tizzy, panicking that Western nations are facing a baby-shortage and selfish, indulgent single people are ruining the world. I take the position that the very things the study and conservative commentators brand as “selfish” are actually just smart, and the logical responses to both social progress and continued constraint. It’s one of my favorite columns so far, so I hope you’ll read the whole thing. A bit of it:

But the moral case against individualism and choice doesn’t have legs. It’s a moral good when people have a wide array of choices and increased personal freedom – not just for the individual, but also for children, family and society. And the evidence backs that up.

Valuing tradition, family and God doesn’t automatically translate into healthy families or economic prosperity. Just look at the United States: the states that most idealise the conservative model do have higher birth rates, earlier marriage, higher levels of religiosity and more consistent church attendance. They make up consistent conservative voting blocks. They also have the highest levels of divorce in the country, the highest poverty rates, the highest teen pregnancy rates, the lowest child health ratings and the lowest education levels. On the other hand, the states that champion “liberal values” do have later marriage rates and lower birth rates. They’re also richer and better educated, the children that reside in them are healthier and families split up less often.

And contrary to the assertions in both the report and the commentary surrounding it, a lower birth rate does not actually mean that individuals end up voting to support only the interests of affluent childless singles. Quite the opposite: the social safety net is much stronger in liberal, supposedly individualistic, lower-birthrate blue states. An array of choices seems to mean that people respect and support a variety of paths.

The rest of the world tells a similar story. There are obviously myriad complex factors that play into a nation’s success, but the places where people are the healthiest and the most economically stable are the relatively liberal nations that provide for social welfare while allowing many different models of family to flourish.

Meanwhile, the arguments in favour of a return to the traditional family remain unconvincing, and even insulting. For example, NYT columnist Ross Douthat accuses single people of being “decadent” in their selfish singledom (an argument neatly taken down by Ann Friedman). In the report itself, the authors project a nobility on to staying at home and “sacrificing” for one’s family, as opposed to young people who show “an almost defiant individualism” and “indulge themselves in hobbies, fashion or restaurants”. Singapore pastor Andrew Ong says that the child-free media culture is “about not growing up”.

Listening to these guys, you would think that kids are an awful drag, that raising a family requires (almost entirely female) sacrifice, and that such hardship simply must be endured for … something they don’t quite specify. By contrast, they seem to think that single people are in a perpetual adolescence, out partying, eating and drinking until, I suppose, we get ours by dying alone with our cats.

That’s not making much of a case for marriage and babies, is it?

In reality, most of these selfish singles are in fact eventually getting married and having babies. They’re just doing it later. The result is that these selfish late procreators are wealthier, their marriages last longer and their kids are healthier. How awful.

Investing in future generations is crucial, but conservatives seem to value not so much investment as major personal sacrifice in the here-and-now that results in poorer outcomes for everyone involved. And for what? So that future generations can grow up to sacrifice themselves too? Feminists and other liberals aren’t against supporting children and making the world a better place. We just realise that the best way to do that isn’t by making ourselves collectively miserable, but by actually taking steps to improve society for everyone, now and later.

One of the ways we’re doing that is by making it easier for women to choose to have children. Demanding that women sacrifice everything for child-rearing isn’t exactly getting the young ladies to line up, but that’s what our current employment model is based upon. It is actually exceedingly difficult in much of the world for women to achieve highly in a career while also having a thriving family and personal life. Our current employment model is based on a family economy with a male partner who is able to work full time, and a female partner who stays at home and tends to the children. Women are now in the workforce in unprecedented numbers – but the workforce hasn’t adjusted to give people much time for anything other than work. And conservatives have championed this model, praising folks who do multiple jobs just to make ends meet or work 80 hours a week. High-achieving men still often have wives who stay home. What happens, then, is high-achieving women either “opt out” and let their husbands do the bread-winning, don’t get married or decide that they want to have kids later or not at all. And the economy suffers for it.

But young single people don’t just want to slave away at work all day, and we don’t have someone at home taking care of the rest of our lives. We also want a work-life balance. We may not be going home to children, but we want to pursue our hobbies, spend time with the families we’ve created and engage with our communities. We realise there is much more to life than just work – but we also think there’s much more to life than a traditional family.

That kind of push-back could be the key in making work-life balance a reality. Historically, women’s work has been undervalued and disrespected. One reason “work-life balance” is discussed but not actually executed is because, I suspect, it’s women – and the most disrespected and undervalued group of women, mothers – who that balance is perceived to benefit. So what if this new group of highly effective, highly motivated, hard-working young single people are now demanding more balance and reasonable work hours and leave policies? Everyone benefits.

147 thoughts on Selfish singles are good for society.

  1. agree that people sholdnt have children if dont want. this is not selfish.

    but do not you think it be wierd what younger woman of optimum age to have child are not have child? men are still fulfil there biolgic impertenative to spread of seeds, and woman still fulfil biolgic impetenative to be viewed as attractive mate, but choose not to have child? which is ultiamte goal of biogy. it is indeed strange!

    1. but do not you think it be wierd what younger woman of optimum age to have child are not have child?

      No, I don’t.

    2. but do not you think it be wierd what younger woman of optimum age to have child are not have child?

      Optimum according to whom? I would think the woman would be the best position to judge whether or not she’s at an optimum age.

      1. the optimum age biogically speaking is of close to 20. because at this age baby is born highest likely healthy and without problem for woman also. this is why man are most attract to young woman, because this give best outcome for reporuduction. and this why woman try to make herself to look like 20. because this most attract to the man

    3. The ultimate goal of biology may be to have children, but it doesn’t achieve that goal through making people want children. It achieves that goal through making people want sex, and making people love children once they have them. But since we evolved under conditions where no one could control whether sex led to babies, and no one even knew that they did, we did not develop any biological desire to have babies, only to have sex and then care for the babies we have.

      Since women have the ability to choose to have sex without having babies, now, we can exercise that choice. Biology doesn’t have anything to say about it. Just like biology tells you to eat fatty food and sugar because that is good for you… if you’re starving, which we’re not anymore, so our biology is compelling us to eat stuff that is not good for us in the quantities we eat it in.

      BTW, the male goal of biology is exactly the same as the female goal: maximize the genes surviving to the next generation. It’s useless for men to “spread their seed” unless that seed is growing up into children. But mammalian males have never evolved any particularly strong impulse to protect and care for their children until human males came along; fatherhood seems to be a recently evolved phenomenon (look at the great fathers of the animal kingdom… they are all birds. Except for humans.) Somehow, when males fuck and don’t care if it results in babies or not, this is seen as biologically normal, whereas when women do it it’s seen as abnormal.

      In fact both are absolutely normal — both sexes are programmed to want sex, and both sexes are intelligent enough to know that babies can be a burden, and while human males *do* have much stronger innate programming toward protecting and caring for babies than other mammals do, neither sex has innate programming to compel them to want children, only to care for the ones they have. People who want children want them for emotional reasons, or logical reasons, not for biological drive reasons like the desire for sex.

      So while it’s damn near impossible to make most humans voluntarily go without food (this is why diets fail), and very, very hard to make most humans go voluntarily without sex, it is not particularly difficult to make humans voluntarily go without babies. This is true of both sexes. Since historically a woman’s worth was often based on the number of children she bore, historically women have wanted children, as children were the key to social status and someone caring for them in old age… but those are logical reasons. Modern women have social security for their old age, and social status that actually decreases when they have children.

      1. yes indeed! this is to what point i was making, it is strange we have evolved in such a way and evolution didnt make us to want the baby specific, just the sex.

        but i disagre that its useles for men to just spread the seed. men make sure child have basic chance (by female atrativeness), but man can spread seed very fast and regenerate it and spread to other woman. woman on other hand take many years to have baby and recover before can have other baby. so man will be natural more promiscos.

        1. No, that’s only one way of understanding the biology. Since children will have a greater chance of survival to adulthood if more than one adult is invested in their care, it makes just as much evolutionary sense for a man to stay with a given woman and help protect their offspring.

        2. i think not so.

          man can help with child and such in total he will make one child. maybe 2 or 3 before to old to make more. if man spread the seed to maybe 300, 400 woman in lifetime, and without man help raising 75% die. still he make almost 100 child! much better than 2 or 3.

          most gender dynamic can be explain by fact that woman take many years to fulfil part in reproduction cycle of one child, but man take less than minute

        3. EG is correct. A human child does better if more people contribute to its well-being; this is probably why human males father (the process of being a father, caring for young, rather than simply a sperm donor, is not one most mammals perform.)

          Also, evidence from primates suggest that among bonobos and chimpanzees, a female having sexual relationships with multiple males improves the outcome for her children, because a male who likes a female and is having sex with her is more likely to watch out for and help to protect her child. Only the invention of patriarchy in humans, where human males require a sense of “ownership” in a child before they’re willing to invest at all, prevents this from working in humans… and we evolved before we invented patriarchy. So in nature, without the cultural expectation from men that they should own a woman and her child, a woman being promiscuous would improve outcomes for her child, because (from a biological perspective) men are more likely to invest in a child who *might* be theirs than a child they know is not, and (from an emotional perspective) men who like or love a woman and are having sex with her generally feel some attachment to her kids. having multiple men watching out for your kids would be better than one; the only reason this doesn’t work now is the invention of patriarchy, which is cultural, not biological.

          Finally, evolution is not directed; no one is creating it, it just happens. It may seem to us kind of weird that evolution, in trying to achieve result A, is promoting behavior B and behavior C but doesn’t seem to care about behavior A. But evolution just does whatever works. If having sex leads to babies, evoloution does not need to make people want babies as long as they want sex. And since animals are dumb and don’t know what causes pregnancies, it wouldn’t be helpful to make mammals want to be pregnant; mammals have no way of getting pregnant except by having sex, so making mammals want to have sex does the job of getting them pregnant just fine. Then evolution makes us love babies after we have them. But that step where we actually acquire a pregnancy isn’t one the animal can control, because the animal doesn’t know sex leads to pregnancy. Evolution can’t work by making a creature want something it has no idea how to obtain; it has to work on things the creature knows how to get.

          So it’s not really unusual that evolution cannot make women want babies, if you actually understand how evolution works. And you need to stop reading pop psych explanations of how evolution works in the two genders, because they’re almost always wrong. For example, it’s always touted that men look for young women to indicate that the mother is healthy and strong, and that women look for rich men because they need the man to provide for them. But, in fact, they don’t need the man to provide for them… most mammals don’t even practice fathering, and in the ancestral environment, your mother and sisters were a lot more help with the kids than the guy you were sleeping with. What they need is evidence that the guy has good genes and is healthy… thus, youth and strength and wellness. And men don’t need the mother of their child to be healthy nearly as much as they need her to be competent, because in the ancestral environment they weren’t much directly involved in child rearing. So it’s more important for a mother to be experienced, or rich (can provide for her child), or has high social status (can get her friends to help), or is smart (can look out for her child), than it is for her to be young (and it’s very important for her to be strong, so standards of female beauty that emphasize fragility are not natural.) The reason stuff doesn’t work that way now is, again, the cultural overlay of patriarchy has radically altered what humans would “naturally” do… because what humans would “naturally” do is a lot closer to what primates do, and primates look for strong, experienced, mature females with high social status as mates. But pop culture explanations of evo psychology are almost always more interested in trying to explain why our biology makes us do what we do right now than in understanding how our biology actually works and how we may have distorted it with our cultural expectations.

          If you look at “what traits in a mother would maximize the survival of her offspring”… they are not the traits that human males emphasize in most cultures. If you look at “what traits would lead a female to be easily controllable by a male who can monopolize her reproductive capacity and gain her labor as his servant”… suddenly youth, modest behavior, average intelligence, and physical fragility become valuable, even though those are *not* helpful to the goal of “have healthy children and raise them to be strong and well-placed for having children of their own.” Men changed their strategy because culture told them to look for traits other than the ones that were good for their children, which forced women to change their strategy because “traits that will make my kids strong and healthy” might not be the same as “traits that can protect me and support me because I am not allowed to protect and support myself or my kids”. And we’ve seen that in cultures where we have been chipping away at the expectation that women should be the servants of men, suddenly we find that men love to watch her strut. Xena, Buffy, Ripley, Sarah Connor… they had no shortage of male fans. And while women might still like Sean Connery, there is approximately 9 billion percent more fanfic featuring James Bond’s Q now that a movie has come out where Q is young and hot than there was when he was an elderly genius.

        4. firstly i claim not that all things is biological. some is cultural. but most is biological. like u say evolution not perfect and so maybe havent given man best choice of woman for raising child. so we have only descent indicator in fertility, which why man attract to woman who show fertility things.

          for example, have curve show fertility. so man attract to curve. have small width feet show fertility, so woman where heel shoe which make feet look smaller width. young woman more fertile than old, so man attracted to all thing asociation with young woman, slim, lack of the imperfection in face, lack of the body hair, and so on. this is why woman work to make themself look such.

          yes maybe better for have smart strong woman for raise child. but like you say, evoluton not perfect and making man perfer to fertility over non fertility is still for positive benefit. so evolved this trait.

          woman look for gene in man to indicate that her child is going to have success. not for indicate that he is going to be good protector. this is why woman look for money and social dominant. because if man have this, then child created of such man will have trait too, and benefit child. because man who grow from child will be able to dominate other man (and then also be attract to other woman and have more child, further the evolution). man was never involve in child rearing. he away spreading seed to more woman to maximize evolution.

          u say xena, buffy, ripey of alien and sarah conner, well male who like such woman is most likely try to get in bed with woman. all of these woman is attractive in term of youth and fertility. and all is doing feminist thing. so man who like can say “hey look to me, i like the woman such as buffy and xena” because he want woman to say “hmm, he is progressive man! i will get on bed with him”. but really such do not contradict classical evolution gender theory. all these woman is youthful and attrative.

        5. Tomek, primates don’t look for young monkeys to reproduce with… they look for monkeys in their prime. The equivalent of a 30 year old woman is what a male monkey seems most attracted to. There’s no really good reason to imagine this would be different in humans.

          It’s true that there are biological reasons not to be attracted to a woman who looks like she’s 60. But 30 year old women who already have a child that’s old enough to help her take care of your kid are much, much better bets than 15 year olds. Firstly, if she’s a mother, she’s proven to be fertile. (The fertility dropoff in the 30s is pretty much entirely due to undetected venereal diseases, and venereal disease didn’t evolve until we had cities, because it needs population density to spread. When most of our behavior evolved, it didn’t exist.) Secondly, you can look at the health and success of her child, and how she cares for it, as a direct indicator of how she’d take care of your child. Thirdly, if she has a kid already who is old enough to help with a sibling, she’ll have assistance in caring for your kid.

          So yeah, human men are attracted to signs of fertility… but signs of fertility aren’t “pure, untouched tight skin without blemish and extreme youth”. Signs of fertility are “is young enough to bear children without health complications.” If a man’s going to fire and forget, he’d be a genetic fool to target young females primarily; since he’s not going to be involved in raising the kid, going for proven competent mothers who are still fertile and whose child is between 8-14 or so would be a better strategy, and to a certain extent it *is* the strategy male chimps follow.

          The best reason to be attracted to a specifically young woman is that you intend to reproduce with her multiple times. If you’re only going to have sex with a woman once because you’re “spreading your seed”, then who cares if in 10 years she’ll be infertile? She can have your kid *now*, and she’s probably better off in terms of her wealth, competence and social status than a teen would be. But if you are going to monopolize a woman’s reproductive capacity throughout her life, and you are limited to the number of women you can do this with by the resources you have to care for them and their kids, a young woman becomes important.

          I would argue that humans, in fact, show strong signs of evolving away from the mammalian pattern of “spreading seed” and toward a pattern more often seen in birds of involved fatherhood. Why would patriarchy have ever developed in the first place if men were uninterested in functioning as fathers? I hate to say it, but human women would probably be better off if men gave exactly as much of a shit about babies as tomcats do about kittens; patriarchy exists as a means for males to monopolize the reproductive capacity of females, a pointless thing to do if you don’t care about babies. The strategy of “pick one woman and reproduce with her for the rest of her reproductive life and fund the raising of her children” doesn’t make sense if human males are inherently R-strategy, have as many kids as they possibly can. It’s evidence that men are naturally much closer to the K-strategy that women employ, where there are very few children and very high investment in them, that they ever invented patriarchy in the first place. More charitably, the fact that men love their babies proves that no, men are not evolved to “spread their seed”, fire and forget with no involvement in the child’s life. And as soon as you have to account for why evolution has made men love their children, you have to assume that men have evolved to invest in children, which requires giving a shit about the quality of life that the mother can provide the kids. (Or, requires deciding that you are the provider of the quality of life, in which case a woman who is weaker than you, younger than you and of lower status than you is a good idea because you can control her.)

          As for women being attracted to successful men because success is a marker of the children being successful… this would be even more important for males to seek because if they aren’t raising the child, they are not inputting any influence into the child’s success. It would be *all* based on the mother’s genes. So the most attractive women would be fertile successful ones, and success and fertility would exist in a bell curve balance where you can maintain a certain level of attractiveness if you have either success or fertility, but you’d be most attractive with both. Meanwhile, women should be critically interested in the health of the potential father and the quality of his sperm, because if he’s “successful” but his genes don’t code for great health, she could end up with a child who will die young before being able to achieve success. So health/fertility and success would also exist in a bell curve in women’s attraction to men — men with very high success could attract women even if they lack health/fertility, and men with very high health/fertility (read: youth and attractiveness) could attract women even if they lack success.

          This second pattern is actually what women really do. It’s a myth that women are attracted to rich men. Women are attracted to hot men. Hotness is defined as: young, healthy, and showing markers of traits that might appeal to the woman (such as muscles, or long legs), or being powerful and successful, and the more you are of both, the more attractive you are. Women have *always* been attracted to hot men; history is full of stories of elderly men with young wives who were cuckolded by a hot young guy. The weirdness here is not that women are attracted most to fertile, young, healthy guys who are also successful, with either youth/health without success or success without youth/health coming in second; the weirdness is that this is *not* how men behave, even though logic suggests that proven fertility and competence as a mother, combined with success, should be *much* more valuable than being a childless teenager who hasn’t proven herself a good mother *or* particularly successful.

          So the notion that men just want to randomly impregnate as many women as possible doesn’t fit with the evidence that men love their children; the fact that human males are willing to behave as fathers is pretty much proof that human men are K-strategy, just maybe not quite as K-strategy as women are. There *are* men who seem to want to screw as many women as possible, but there are tomcats who will try to nurse kittens; outliers don’t really prove much about what a species is like in general. The human male evolved to invest in his child, and we know this because *human men are capable of loving babies*, and in fact, the majority of human men who have a genetic child love that child. And whether a man has evolved to invest in his children, or whether he has evolved to screw and run, either way a woman’s success and social status is not just a marker of her genetics; it’s actually, literally, an indicator of the likelihood of her child’s survival. In a culture where men contribute a little bit to children but women contribute a great deal, it’s *more* important for a child’s survival for a mother to be competent and sucessful than it is for the “success” genes to come from the male, because in the case of the woman being successful, it’s not just that her genes are good, it’s also that she’s going to be more successful at keeping that kid alive. Males who don’t invest in children are contributing nothing of their own to the child and have no reason to care if the female loses her fertility in 10 years, so they should prefer successful females as sex partners; males who do invest in children will have fewer children and therefore the value of each child increases, so the competence and success of the mother are also more important than if she’s going to be fertile in 10 years.

          The only strategy that results in wanting to have sex with teenagers is the strategy of monopolizing women. And this is not a natural biological strategy for human males; they’re not enough bigger than human females and they don’t spend as much time killing each other in jealous rages, like gorillas do. Human males are biologically much more similar to chimps and bonobos, who do not monopolize females, than gorillas, who do. Instead, human males have adopted a *cultural* strategy which overrides evolutionary desire. We know it is cultural rather than evolutionary because of the difference between chimps/bonobos and gorillas, and which one we are similar to (and looking in general at harem mammals, comparing them to mammals who don’t give that much of a shit.) We also know it is cultural because when we take away women’s legal dependence on men, women act exactly like the model expects them to — they are attracted to both youth/fertility and success markers — but, since not all that much has changed for men and how they construct their sexuality, men continue to seem to follow the model of the gorilla.

          Again, you really need to read some of the actual research in this area, not the pop psych stuff. Human culture pressures people to behave in ways that are totally antithetical to our evolution. (Think about honor killings. What evolutionary purpose could there *ever* be to investing 16 years of time and money, a huge chunk of even a man’s reproductive life, in a teenage girl, just to murder her for having sex with an inappropriate mate? Cut her off as a bad investment because you don’t think her children with that mate will do well, maybe, but if you actually *kill* her you are guaranteeing that you just wasted all that time, energy and money. There is no good evolutionary reason to do this… but there’s a “good” cultural reason. If your child having sex with an inappropriate mate taints the prospects of the rest of the family because other people will perceive you as lower status based on what your daughter did, *then* it makes sense… except there’s no biological reason for anyone to care who someone else’s daughter sleeps with as long as it’s not their son. This is a cultural behavior, entirely, and it overrules the evolutionary, natural desire to protect and love your child.) Most of the shit we do, there actually isn’t a good evolutionary reason for, and if you remove the cultural pressure that forces us to do it, we stop doing it.

        6. for example, have curve show fertility. so man attract to curve

          I’ve heard this before, but I haven’t seen any evidence. Is there any actual evidence demonstrating that curvier women are more fertile than more angular women? Any at all? Further, how do you explain the 1920s, when women bound their breasts to flatten them? How do you explain the fact that women are attracted to curves as well? How do you deal with the fact that all human beings are curvy? There are no human beings built with straight lines.

          have small width feet show fertility, so woman where heel shoe which make feet look smaller width.

          Evidence? The fact that both men and women wore heels and platforms for quite some time before that fashion became solely the province of women in the western world? The existence of Docs, clogs, geta and men who are attracted to women who wear them?

          young woman more fertile than old, so man attracted to all thing asociation with young woman, slim, lack of the imperfection in face, lack of the body hair, and so on.

          Evidence that a 15-year-old’s children are more likely to make it child-bearing age than a 30-year-old’s? And how do you square this with your assertion that men are attracted to curvier women because of fertility? Are women supposed to be both slim and curvy? How? Lack of body hair is associated with being pre-pubescent, which is obviously not a time of fertility, so how do you address that?

        7. alara this is not so.

          in enviroement in which we evolve, there was no success marker of woman other than ability of her to take care of child. such as be nurture, be kind and so forth to produce highest qality of child. in that enviroement woman success marker of woman is fertility/attrativenes. this is what she compete with other woman to achieve better. such there is no female attrativenes, other than female fertility (which is shown in the looks)

          sucess marker of man is in hunting and domanance of other male, who bring most meat, who can dominate other male and such. fetility of male not relavant. vast majority of male produce many sperms, and this ability not go away for very long time. this why woman attract to dominant rich guy. even trait what woman find attrative in man, big muscle, power jaw, big satchel for ball, is all indicate of man ability to dominate other man. so there is no such thing as the male attrativeness, other than trait what indicate male power.

          also this is proved true by all studies on all culture. even u go back to egypt when had large catface in desert, u see in statue woman is stand passive and be pretty. man is do active pose such like he is walking somewhere or doing the dominant thing. this is universeal.

          also EG if by the Doc u mean doc martin… who like doc martin? this is not in fashion since many yars. therefore it hasnt inherent bioloical fashion.

    4. I’m a biologist. What you seem to be describing is the theory that having children at your peak fertility is optimal. What you are ignoring is the fact that there are trade-offs between the age at which you have a child and what you are able to accomplish. If you have children young you are trading time that could’ve been spent building a nest egg or finding potentially better partners against the comparative ease of having more energy (arguable) as a younger person to raise children. If you have children at an older age you are trading fecundity for being more established than you were when you were young.

      Also you’re being ridiculous. Women don’t live their lives thinking about nothing but an abstract concept like a biological imperative. They make choices based on what they want to do with their lives.

      If you’re going to try to look into concepts like sexual conflict and investment strategies for bearing offspring, at least read into it first. The theory plays into things that people do consider when planning families (can you afford children, is your partner one you want to have children with, when will you lose the ability to physically bear a child….) but people don’t plug that into an matrix and use that to decide when to get preggers. Unless they’re mathematicians.

      1. Also you’re being ridiculous. Women don’t live their lives thinking about nothing but an abstract concept like a biological imperative. They make choices based on what they want to do with their lives.

        no thats whole point of biogigic imperative . need not think of it, it just shape all choices and thing they want. when u say “i do x because x make me feel good” or “i do x because i feel x is right thing to do” then this biologic imperative at work.

        1. True. Which is evidence that women who are successful and high status were in the ancestral environment more successful parents, because women have a powerful desire for success and status, and evolution shapes our desires in a way that historically and statistically was more likely to lead to us having children who survived to adulthood and had their own children.

          Nowadays, due to centuries of devaluing women’s work and motherhood, the desire for status, wealth, success and respect is antithetical to having children, because in modern society, moms get no respect. So just like we evolved to like fat and sugar because that desire increased our survival, and now factors in our culture lead that desire to be more likely to harm our health, we evolved to want to be powerful, wealthy and successful because women who were powerful, wealthy and successful had more children who lived to adulthood… but now that desire works against having children.

          If societies want more children… the feminist genie is out of the bottle, has stopped wearing harem pants and is not taking wishes from dudes anymore. You can’t make women have more children by making their culture *more* shitty toward them, because now they know alternate options exist. You have to do it by making their culture *less* shitty, so that women who choose to have children don’t suffer financially or socially for doing so.

    5. This is completely off-topic but as someone linguistically inclined I am fascinated and baffled by the fact that Tomek managed to get “impertenative” and “biogy” out of Polish, even if he is using an online translator. I’d expect him to call biology “biologia,” for instance, not “biogy.”

        1. Mostly I think of Tomek as amusing performance art, somewhere between “Borat” and the “How is babby formed” caveman.

      1. biologia is polish.i speak not in polish but english. i write “biogy” because i type with speed and so type wrong. i try to spell how i hear word say by english speaker like from tv show or such. so sometimes i get wrong like imperetive. sometimes i look up.

        now when all on here is speak polish with such skill as i speak english then they can make fun ok?

        1. To be clear, I’m not making fun of your English, Tomek; I actually do think your comprehension is excellent, and your writing is very good considering how different English and Polish are. I’m sorry if it came across that way. I was honestly curious about how you end up forming some of your words because they’re just not the mistakes I would expect a Polish speaker to make in English.

  2. I don’t worry about America’s future, but other nations are seeing a serious problem with the loss of babies.

    Italy and Japan are having serious issues and may be teetering on a collapse because they can’t support their elderly, and not enough young people are paying into the government social network. Other European nations with low native birth rates are having their population numbers pushed up by immigrants, largely Muslim and African immigrants, and the tension between those groups is getting serious. Especially because most European nations don’t have an immigrant narrative to fall back on when it comes to dealing with new people, like the USA does.

    America has such consistent immigration and pockets of poverty that our birth rate, overall, will continue to be at supplemental levels, but for nations struggling with their birth rates it’s going to be very bad, and it’s already starting.

    When you educate women and have an affluent society, people don’t want to have children. You can create family support out of morality, or desperation, but people still will view children as a sacrifice and a burden. Those systems of support did’t kick up the birth rate in France and Sweden.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t have healthy, safe lifestyles, or don’t educate women, I am saying that the system you’re suggesting won’t create a higher birthrate; it will stopgap the inevitably birth rate decline of the affluent.

    1. Actually, the family support systems did kick up the birth rates in France and Sweden. France and Scandinavian countries have some of the highest birth dates in Europe, and saw upticks when they instituted family-friendly policies.

      Countries like Italy don’t have similar policies, and also have serious issues with gender inequality.

      1. Yes yes yes. This. And the fact that the low birth rate is a long-time correlate of industrialization and the end of child labour (the latter being a good thing, of course.)

    2. When you educate women and have an affluent society, people don’t want to have children. You can create family support out of morality, or desperation, but people still will view children as a sacrifice and a burden.

      Wow, way to make an sweeping and utterly unsupported generalization there. Some people will view children as a sacrifice and a burden no matter the circumstances, others may never find them to be either a sacrifice or a burden, and yet others may find them to be either less of a sacrifice/burden or not at all depending on their personal set of circumstances. The individual experience is always precisely that, an individual one, and will always defy the urge to throw all of them into the same descriptive pot, regardless of one’s insistent attempt to do so.

      Also? Increased rates of personal education may correlate with decreased birthrates, but again, your truism that it somehow eliminates the urge people may have to become parents is just utterly false conjecture. There are still plenty of well educated people with college and advanced degrees who still decide to have kids, like hey, me as well as millions of others.

      Those systems of support did’t kick up the birth rate in France and Sweden.

      As Jill has already discussed, this position is utterly and demonstrably untrue

      Any other unsupported opinions you want to throw out there?

      1. And what’s the demographic breakdown of the people having children?

        Because none of your links mention that.

        1. As opposed to the links that you provided in support of your opinions.

          Oh, wait, that’s right, you provided absolutely zero sources to support the claims that you made in your own comment.

          Here’s wild idea, how about you go spend some time with the Google and come up with hard data to the contrary of anything that has actually been stated by me or Jill. Furthermore, stop moving the goal posts. Your initial comment was that family support systems in France and Sweden did not increase their birth rate as intended, and I was able to provide sources refuting that position. If you want to argue that the increased birth rate is tied to income rates, go ahead, but don’t expect anyone to believe you if aren’t willing to back it up with real, factually supported, data.

        2. And to answer your question, it looks like 73% of children born in France are born to parents who were also both born in France. An additional 16% were born to one parent born in France and one parent born elsewhere. Only 11% of children were born to parents who are both immigrants.


        If you trust the BBC, 1/4 of France’s population overall growth has been from migrants entering nation, 20% of all births are migrant births. And, of course, there are those people who are first generation French, consider

        That’s a pretty good chunk of the population–take all those people and their children away, and those good numbers are gonna drop.

        I don’t support the fear-mongering by racists about the LOSS OF WHITE BABIES because I really don’t care if America is white or if France or wherever else is right, but I stand by my statement that affluence and female education cut birth rates severely, more severely than pro-family programs can address.

        1. Wow, even more false premises!

          Children of immigrants are not necessarily likely to be less well off than those that are natively born. Once again, your spouting nonsense with an air of authority is not sufficient to will any of it into facts.

          You can stick to your positions all day long, but sticking to them without backing them up factually doesn’t lend any credence to them. You sound like Mitt Romney, who thought he could will his way into the White House by insisting that the polling data was wrong and that he just knew that victory was his to claim on Election Day.

          Your suppositions and gut feelings do not equal fact minus evidence to back them up.

    3. Italy and Japan are having serious issues and may be teetering on a collapse because they can’t support their elderly, and not enough young people are paying into the government social network.

      You’re generalizing across very different countries there, which have very different reasons for the strain on their social systems. Japan legitimately has a demographic problem in which there are too few young workers to support the elderly. Italy, by contrast, has a youth unemployment rate of approximately 36% (compared to an overall unemployment rate of 11%). The budget problems of Italy’s government have nothing to do with having too few young people; to the contrary, they have an enormous surplus of youth who are available to work but can’t find jobs.

      1. Italy has had issues with with children for more than the last half-decade, in addition, expectation of eventual affluence affects the decision to raise children. There has always been a correlation between poverty and children, the only thing that breaks that correlation is education/affluence.

        1. Uh, that has nothing to do with the part of your original post I was responding to, in which you asserted that the governments of Japan and Italy are unable to support the number of elderly people in those countries because the “loss of babies” means there are too few young people available to work and pay taxes. That’s just demonstrably not the case in Italy.

          And yes, there is a generalized trend in which women who are better educated and more affluent (which are themselves correlated) have fewer children than those who are less educated and poorer. But that’s the difference between women having an average of 7 children in Niger and 2 children in New Zealand, not 0 children in wealthy countries. The population replacement rate is 2.1 children. Coincidentally, that was exactly the fertility rate in the United States before the recession began a few years ago — and although the fertility rate in the U.S. declined slightly (to 1.9) over the past few years, most experts attribute that to the fact that periods of economic downturn cause fertility rates to temporarily decline.

          Most of the assumptions you’re making here are just factually incorrect, which a basic google search would tell you. Among other things: during the recession the fertility rate in the U.S. has declined far more steeply among immigrants than women born in the U.S., and fertility rates among college-educated women in the U.S. actually rose in the decade preceeding the recession. And although a country’s fertility rates traditionally decline as it goes from widespread poverty to relative affluence, the most affluent countries actually show INCREASED fertility rates as compared to their slightly less well-off peers — something social scientists attribute to family-friendly social policies of the type you dismissed off hand.

          This may be of interest:

      2. Japan legitimately has a demographic problem in which there are too few young workers to support the elderly. Italy, by contrast, . . .

        Japan has it worse, but Japan and Italy have quite similar demographics, at least they’re more similar than the other countries under discussion, so if Japan “legitimately has a demographic problem”, I think Italy does as well:

        Japan:Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.1%
        15-64 years: 64%
        65 years and over: 22.9%

        Italy:Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.8%
        15-64 years: 65.9%
        65 years and over: 20.3%

        France:Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.5%
        15-64 years: 64.7%
        65 years and over: 16.8%

        Sweden:0-14 years: 15.4%
        15-64 years: 64.8%
        65 years and over: 19.7%

        Birth rates (birth/ 1000 population)
        Japan : 8.39
        Italy: 9.06
        France: 12.72
        Sweden: 10.24
        (all numbers from

        And anecdotally, a few years back, there was a town in Italy offering cash incentives to come have babies there.

        1. I’ll also just add that for all the complaining that young women should have more babies, the unemployment rate for young people in France is something like 1 in 4. I keep hearing about how we need more workers to support aging populations, but those workers are there. They can’t find jobs.

        2. I keep hearing about how we need more workers to support aging populations, but those workers are there. They can’t find jobs.

          That’s part of the austerity agenda, claiming that there’s a skilled worker shortage when there’s high unemployment, and at a time when the labour force is at its most educated and skilled. Canada’s been going gangbusters on this, bringing in temporary foreign workers. And from The Myth of the Skills Mismatch:

          The top reason manufacturers cited for having trouble hiring skilled workers, she writes, is candidates “looking for more pay than is offered.”

    4. Italy and Japan are having serious issues and may be teetering on a collapse because they can’t support their elderly, and not enough young people are paying into the government social network.

      Yes, and it’s an amazing coincidence how both those countries have a well-established reputation as xenophobic racist-friendly armpits, however attractive they may be in other aspects.

      Migration’s the birth boom of the future, my friend; if nations with low birth rates aren’t willing to let people in to replace their aging demographic, or are horrid enough to people who do attempt to immigrate that people stop wanting to, well, they can rot in their own stew of adult diapers and Ensure. They’ve earned it with ferocity and dedication, after all.

      1. I actually wrote on this below: my concern with immigration as a means of population growth is that I think it’s dependent on making sure someone else’s country is a shithole so you can import their impoverished, uneducated workers. Poverty and lack of education (especially for women) are the two top factors for those birth rates, after all.

        1. I think it’s dependent on making sure someone else’s country is a shithole so you can import their impoverished, uneducated workers

          Which would make sense if Italy or Japan wanted foreign workers, impoverished or not. But they don’t. So it doesn’t. (It’s a case by case thing, but those two cases are really not helping yours.)

        2. Italy and Japan don’t want foreigners, so they’re in freefall and pretty fucked.

          France and America are more open to immigrants, and doing better.

          My original premise is that social programs for parents won’t stop overall population loss in affluent first world nations still stands.

      2. Japan also has several issues with workplaces in general that contribute to their problem. I mean, when you’re a 20-something woman and your choice is to have a social life and career or stay at home and focus completely on your child (and because of educational standards, that child will cost a lot of money), you tend to put off marrying.

        Though their media will happily tell you that it’s a lack of interest in sex in the country (honestly) or that women are just not being traditional enough for men (hahaha, where have I heard that before?).

    5. Italy and Japan are having serious issues and may be teetering on a collapse because they can’t support their elderly, and not enough young people are paying into the government social network.

      They may both have serious issues in this area, but if so it is for very different reasons.
      Japan is the sovereign issuer of its own currency. It can create more money any time to pay for the care of its elderly, certainly to the extent that the elderly need to have their own savings supplemented. They do not need to have young workers “paying in” to any system to do this. If they are short of young workers to do the actual work of caring for the elderly, they can bring in immigrant or guest workers to do it (we would hope with decent pay and working conditions).

      Italy, on the other hand, does not issue its own sovereign currency, but uses the Euro. They have plenty of young people who would probably want jobs to hire to take care of the elderly, but no money to finance it. The European Central Bank should issue money and give it to the Italians for their elderly care expenses. No young workers would need to “pay in” to that system either and they could spend their pay to buy things they want and enjoy and grow the economy more.

      1. I find that to be a rather simplistic assessment. Having the money and having a supply of young people willing to do the job does not translate to a system of caring for the elderly. You might think that’s what would happen, and it theoretically could in an Economics 101 kind of way, but the reason it often doesn’t is it ignores real-world factors like sexism.

        Here is an example. Parents are having to relinquish custody of their disabled kids to the state because they can’t afford to provide them with all the care they need. You’d think it would be a no-brainer. When faced with option 1 – have the parents pay for as much as they can and have the government top the rest up, and option 2 – have the government pick up the whole tab, it’s clear option 1 is cheaper. So why would the state balk at providing respite care? It’s because they think there’s an option 3 – have women do the work for free like back in the day. And they’re holding out for option 3.

        It’s the same with care for the elderly. The most economical option would be home care, where the elderly and their families are still paying for the bulk of their living expenses, but receiving some assistance from the government. With home care, people who are no longer able to 100% care for themselves but don’t need round-the-clock care can avoid the more expensive institutional care. But what you’ll commonly see, at least where I live, is significantly under-funded home care programs where access is rationed. And people who would choose home care are instead forced into “choosing” institutional care. Or, when the level of care required reaches the point where the person needs to be in a care facility, they’ll take up even more expensive hospital beds because there’s no available bed in the facility.

        It doesn’t make sense that governments would time and time again reject the most economical option, and go with the more expensive one. Until you realize that what they’re doing is playing a game of chicken. Just don’t provide the care and see if anyone steps up.

        The more sexist the country, the more that women are the ones that are expected to shoulder the burden of care for the elderly (and children), the more difficulty the country will have in resolving issues arising from an aging population. Regardless of whether or not they issue their own sovereign currency, or have the money to fund a system of caring for the elderly.

        1. You are absolutely right in all your points. I was mainly trying to answer the idea that Italy and Japan (and by implication, the USA and other countries) “don’t have the money.” Government spending is necessary, but not anywhere near sufficient. Once we get the idea across that we need to spend money, and that in fact we do have the money, then comes the even more difficult part of designing and building programs, providing the training and auditing everything for effectiveness. So, if you want to say my assessment is simplistic, OK, it is, but maybe we could alternatively think of it as “incomplete”?

    6. Japan and Italy don’t have a problem with birth rate so much as they have a problem with misogynist family structures and a disdain of foreigners.

  3. This isn’t true for everyone, but I know many people who delayed having children well into their thirties. There are a myriad of factors as to why they waited, and they all seem to make sense to me.

    I think that folks should demonstrate a willingness to devote the time it takes to be a good parent. Some people arrive at that point earlier than others. The young professionals who make up the majority of my friends can’t exactly be decadent, especially when paying rent and finding a job is still incredibly difficult. We’ve all had to scale back our expectations in all sorts of ways.

    Having a child is an expensive proposition. If I were to be a father, I’d want to make sure my income would adequately support a son or a daughter. Being selfish would be, in my opinion, bringing a child into the world without an adequate means of support., both economically and emotionally.

    1. Being selfish would be, in my opinion, bringing a child into the world without an adequate means of support., both economically and emotionally.

      Hell yes. People who are, for the most part, merely waiting until they have the (mental/emotional/physical) resources for children? Not selfish.

      1. Not to mention that it isn’t always so easy to find someone you want to have a child with (for those who envision doing so) at a young age. Or any age, for that matter.

        My son graduated from college in June, and the grand total of people who were in his high school class of about 100 who’ve had babies so far is one. A guy. (Oddly enough, the very same guy who used to terrorize my son and everyone else in their play group when they were about 16 months old; “I’m afraid of ——” was one of the very first complete sentences my son ever spoke.)

    2. Being selfish would be, in my opinion, bringing a child into the world without an adequate means of support., both economically and emotionally.

      Poor people who have children are selfish?

      1. Kevin didn’t define “adequate means of support,” but to me, it means having enough resources to be able to provide what a child absolutely needs — food, shelter, clothing, access to medical care, etc. That doesn’t mean the poor shouldn’t have children: necessary resources can be provided for via government assistance or charitable programs, rather than a big salary. But if you purposefully bring a child into the world knowing that you will not be able to provide for its basic needs, then yes, I think that’s selfish. I hate the fact that it’s possible for that to happen, and I think social safety nets should be much stronger than they are, but the fact that there’s a huge injustice there doesn’t make a child any less hungry or sick.

        1. But then what you’re expecting many, many people to do is to forego what many people understand as a basic necessity of a life worth living, or be considered “selfish.” It’s like asking people to go without a romantic partner; if the choice is between massive self-sacrifice and being “selfish,” how many people are realistically going to opt for the first? Is it really “selfish” if that’s the level of self-sacrifice being refused?

        2. But then what you’re expecting many, many people to do is to forego what many people understand as a basic necessity of a life worth living, or be considered “selfish.”

          While my feelings about this situation are complex, EG, I really think that saying that children are a basic necessity of a life worth living – is tantamount to declaring children property. It’s a creepy-ass statement, an entitled statement and an utterly dehumanising statement. A child isn’t a can of soup or a course of antibiotics, to be a necessity.

          And while I know it’s not what your intent is, that is the practical effect of making children a necessity: it turns them into chattel, into resources, into objects rather than subjects. I understand what you’re trying to say, but this is the worst imaginable way you could have put it.

        3. Hmm. I don’t see it that way, any more than I would if I said that for many people, a romantic partner is necessary to a life worth living, but that’s certainly not a meaning I wish to convey! What if I rephrase it to center the relationship, so that for many, many people, parenthood, or being a parent is necessary to a life worth living? Does that take away that connotation? Because that would work for me.

        4. Thinking more about this, I think it’s because for me, many of the things that make live worth living aren’t actually things that can be owned, and I was raised that way–which isn’t to say that the material isn’t important–I wasn’t raised rich enough to think that. But I was putting children (for myself and many other people, not in any objective sense for everybody) in the same category as romantic love, a best friend, meaningful work (not necessarily paid, as that is a true luxury). But now that you say it, I realize that that isn’t necessarily how it’s going to get read.

        5. That works for me, EG!

          Sorry, I just, I see way too much objectifying, dehumanising shit built into the way people talk about kids to not have an instinctive sick-response when I see it. I certainly didn’t think you were using it that way, for the record, but I didn’t want sixteen people jumping down your throat for it either, lol. We do so love the pile-on around here.

        6. But then what you’re expecting many, many people to do is to forego what many people understand as a basic necessity of a life worth living, or be considered “selfish.”

          Well, yes. But if you decide to have a child knowing you literally won’t be able to feed it, or that it will not have critical healthcare when it needs it, or that it won’t have a roof over its head at night — those are basic necessities of life, too, and I think they’re more important ones than being able to have children, however powerfully that matters to someone.

          There are a lot of low income parents who do a fantastic job raising their children, and whose children do have the necessities even if they don’t have the latest toy or a big college fund. I’m not saying that being poor means it’s selfish to have kids, or that there’s anything at all wrong with relying on government assistance or private charities to help you out. But if, for whatever reason, you know that it’s very unlikely that you will be able to provide a child with basic necessities, then I don’t see how purposefully choosing to have one anyone isn’t selfish. A child isn’t just something the parent wants, it’s a living breathing person of its own and for a number of years its going to be entirely dependent on the parent to provide the things it needs to live.

        7. But if you decide to have a child knowing you literally won’t be able to feed it, or that it will not have critical healthcare when it needs it, or that it won’t have a roof over its head at night

          Then what you’re saying is that every poor person in the US who had children prior to the implementation of CHiP was selfish.

          No. You’re writing as “selfish” is the only way to describe a decision made in lousy circumstances. You’re writing as if poor people who need to have children to have complete lives have two choices, superhuman self-sacrifice or selfishness, with no other way of characterizing a decision to have children. You’re writing as if people who are among the least likely to be able to derive respect and fulfillment from education or work should voluntarily decide to forego it in their familial lives (if children are what they want) lest they be considered selfish.

          I’m not going to hold people living in poverty to higher standards of self-control and self-sacrifice than I hold rich people, or even just comfortably middle-class people.

        8. Mac, I think that’s a good thing to be sensitive about! I’m sorry I tripped that particular sensor, but I appreciate you letting me know so I could fix it.

        9. Yes. And that’s sucky for them to be called selfish — suckier for their kids who starved to death, though. If those children did starve to death, which would be the only way “selfish” is applicable based on the above definition.

        10. You’re writing as if poor people who need to have children to have complete lives have two choices, superhuman self-sacrifice or selfishness

          Children are people. They are not just the fulfillment of a parent’s need to procreate. They have needs of their own, needs for which they are utterly dependent on their caretakers until they become old enough to provide for themselves. I’m not talking about luxuries; I’m literally talking about children not having food to eat or essential medical treatment if they are hurt or sick. If you don’t feed your child, that is neglect — even if you’re suffering from poverty that is entirely outside your control.

          If someone knows they won’t be able to feed a child but decide to have one anyway because their “need” to have a child outweighs that child’s need to eat, then yes, I’m going to go ahead and think that was a selfish decision. Which doesn’t actually impact them in any way, since I’m pretty sure anyone in that situation has more pressing things to worry about than whether I personally consider them selfish.

        11. I’m not going to hold people living in poverty to higher standards of self-control and self-sacrifice than I hold rich people, or even just comfortably middle-class people.

          This is a good goal to have, but if this is your position, you are only considering the needs of the parent to be relevant. The children themselves are crucial to moral consideration. Even if a wealthier family has a child for the same ‘selfish’ reasons as one that cannot provide basic care, and all else is equal, the child in the desperately poor household will suffer much more from that decision. I happen to believe that the effects of a decision are more important than the decision’s intent – indeed, that sentiment is often expressed here. Unfortunately, that leads me to conclude that relative wealth or poverty is a highly relevant concern when assessing the morality of deciding to have a child.

          However, all of this is fairly abstract. We all probably agree that the practical solution to child hunger (etc.) is to provide better social support, rather than scolding the poor. So I don’t think we’re enemies.

        12. And that’s sucky for them to be called selfish — suckier for their kids who starved to death, though. If those children did starve to death, which would be the only way “selfish” is applicable based on the above definition.

          So, let me get this straight: the parents are selfish if they have a child knowing that said child will starve to death.

          This does not seem like a pressing problem to me. I suspect it happens quite rarely.

          I’m literally talking about children not having food to eat or essential medical treatment if they are hurt or sick.

          Yes. And I’m pointing out that this applies to every single person without health insurance in the US who decided to have a baby before CHiP, which was instituted in, oh, let me check, 1997. When so very many people are being “selfish,” it strongly suggests to me that the criterion for not being selfish is unreasonable.

        13. What’s missing from this discussion is the fact that people’s financial circumstances do change drastically. Especially for people who cling to the notion of being “middle class,” when the middle class is being edged out of existence. And that’s just in the developed nations.

  4. What you describe doesn’t sound “selfish” to me. I have several friends who believe the world is overpopulated, so they have chosen not to have children. I respect that choice and I respect that they leave me out of their calculations. What I object to is people who believe that the world is overpopulated, have children themselves, then criticise other people like me for overpopulating the world!

    1. By the way, in most Western nations, single people support families with children, through welfare, schools etc. How is that selfish exactly?

  5. Anyone who can look at the earth metaphorically creaking under the weight of 7 billion people – or is it closer to 8 now? – and decide THE WEST NEEDZ MOAR BABBIES is either terminally stupid, a religious bigot or a white supremacist. These people may take their pick, of course, but I wouldn’t want to be associated with any of these groups.

    (Which isn’t to say that white/religious/industralised-nation women shouldn’t reproduce, just that there’s no actual lack of them reproducing to be all pantsshittingly terrified about.)

    1. I would also add hard-core nationalists to that list, although a lot of those would fall under xenophobes if not white supremacists.

  6. In the report itself, the authors project a nobility on to staying at home and “sacrificing” for one’s family, as opposed to young people who show “an almost defiant individualism” and “indulge themselves in hobbies, fashion or restaurants”.

    Yes, I didn’t have children for Ross Douthat and David Brooks. I had children because I thought that I would like having children. What more selfish, less self-sacrificing reason could there be?

    (And I do like having children. Even though I now have a whole lot less fun…)

    1. Did you find it was 30% less fun post-kids, because I would report it as being more in the neighborhood of maybe only 10% less fun than my life pre-kids. Mileage varying and all that…

        1. Does it matter if they’re boys or girls? I’ll bet one or the other is more fun-sucking but I don’t know which.

      1. No, no, it’s 70% less fun; you only get to have 30% as much fun if you have kids. And that’s just for one kid; I’m pretty sure that with three or four, your fun percentage goes down to zero.

        1. But, but, my personal anecdata points to it only being 10% less fun…

          I guess no matter what I’m doing it wrong, or maybe it’s that my parenting-addled brain can no longer accurately calculate the percentage of fun being had in my life.

          Or maybe it was never fun to begin with, and I just have no idea to objectively determine how much fun anything could possibly be. Cue existential crisis!

        2. It’s a combination of your parenting-addled brain and the damage done by those electric sperm, Lolagirl.

        3. I think it’s that you’re defining “fun” incorrectly. You seem to be defining it as “enjoying things,” whereas clearly the only proper usage of fun is to refer to going out late drinking and listening to music at bars. Get with it, Lolagirl.

        4. clearly the only proper usage of fun is to refer to going out late drinking and listening to music at bars.

          This is definitely where the disconnect lies, because this sounds like the very antithesis of fun to me. Drinking more than two glasses of wine = massive, head pounding hangover the following morning, add in loud music and a loud bar and the hangover head pounding potential increases exponentially.

          I am apparently the most boring and introverted person in the universe.

          Get with it, Lolagirl.

          I’m trying, but it’s all just setting me up for utter failure!

    2. indulge themselves in hobbies, fashion or restaurants

      O_O Well, I should take off my pretty scarf, and get off the internet, and cancel the Chinese we ordered in tonight, I guess. Since I have a small person in the house and all.

      Whoops, there’s the delivery guy. TOO BAD, SUCKER, YOU JUST GOTTA RETURN THAT, WE’VE GOT A SPROG HERE.

      1. Yes clearly because you like restaurants you are living in a perpetual adolescents. PARENTS MUST BE SACRIFICING AND MISERABLE ALWAYS.

        1. Yes! The only way to love your child is to immerse yourself in a seething, simmering stew of resentment and misery, with the occasional tangy garnishing of refined hatred. Only then, when all the joy has been sucked out of life as a parent, can one truly parent.

  7. @Jill:

    (making a new comment so people can reply to me)

    It is exactly asking how many were white, because that proves your argument unsound.

    You argued that social programs increased the birth rate to a replacement level. I countered that immigration is actually what increased the birth rate to a replacement level. My argument does kind of depend on knowing who, exactly, is doing the replacing.

    Do I care that France’s demographics are changing? No, fuck France and fuck that racist crap. But what I do care about is first-world population growth being reliant on enticing immigrants into the nation. And these immigrants need to be disempowered and poor, because those are the ones that have the most kids. So, you need this huge pool of vulnerable people to draw from.

    So, yeah, I’m pretty much suggesting that First World affluence depends on making someone else’s country a misery. Exploit them for trade, natural resources, cheap labor, and then, at the end, import the people as second-class citizens to keep your home-grown industries going and your social programs funded. But try your best to keep these immigrants from actually reaping the benefits of this system.

    The US has some really “great” tactics to disenfranchise our immigrant population while continuing to exploit them; I know for a fact that France has some serious fucking issues with immigrants and racism.

    I don’t think your suggestion that better social programs for parents will solve the problem of low birth rates in affluent countries. And I think suggesting that these programs are what’s fixing the problem, instead of immigration and exploitation, is not a good thing.

    Put aside all this: I support better social programs for damn near everything. But trying to get support from them on an inaccurate premise isn’t the way to do it.

    1. I think that, in the case of the United States at least, you also run into the sticky problem of legal immigration versus illegal immigration; the former immigrants are treated much better than the latter, and are generally themselves fairly well-educated and well off. And some are white to boot. So the immigrants that get really exploited are probably more likely to be the illegal immigrants, who Americans simultaneously love to hate and love to hire. And they are the ones whose children are saddled with the title “anchor baby.”

      1. (To be really clear: I don’t support the huge amount of racism around the concept of “illegal immigrants” but I’m trying to use neutral terms. I’m personally totes fine with brown babies and brownish babies and hardly-at-all-brown babies and whatever other shade of baby you can get, and my type of job(s) are not terribly affected by illegal immigration, so I selfishly don’t care about it “legal” versus “illegal.” But I think they are treated distinctly differently based on that little piece of paper.)

        1. Those purple thought experiment babies can go fuck themselves! Ditto the green ones. I hate those guys.


      2. I think the class of “illegal alien” was created to have slave labor. Period.

        An enormous group of people is compensated only for basic food and clothing. They work primarily in agriculture and their exploitation keeps prices low. Due to their class status, they are afforded no access to the law and have no protections.

        Now, does this describe modern-day illegal immigrants, or 1800’s-style slavery?

        1. Now, does this describe modern-day illegal immigrants, or 1800′s-style slavery?

          I get where you’re going with this but….no. There are significant differences.

        2. Also, the statement that illegal immigrants work primarily in agriculture is completely preposterous:

          Illegal immigrants can be found working in many sectors of the U.S. economy. About 3 percent work in agriculture; 33 percent have jobs in service industries; and substantial numbers can be found in construction and related occupations (16 percent) and in production, installation and repair (17 percent).

          There’s one alleged similarity that isn’t, never mind all the obvious differences you don’t mention.

      3. And some are white to boot.

        Sorry to go off topic, but I feel like every time I get into an USian immigration debate, these are the people who step forward to talk about how they did everything legally and we should have stricter immigration laws and why are all these brown people coming in and ruining the country I worked so hard to get into?

        I’m sure there are immigrants of color who rail against people who come in the “easy” way, but I haven’t seen them.

    2. Except you keep ignoring the facts I mentioned above, described in more detail in the article I linked to:

      -in the U.S., college-educated women saw a 5% INCREASE in fertility in the decade preceding the recession
      -in the U.S. since the recession, fertility rates for immigrant women have dropped twice as much as for U.S.-born women
      -there is a clear fertility trend associated with development: fertility rates drop rapidly as very poor countries become relatively well-off, but then they INCREASE when countries become among the richest in the world — because those are the countries that provide social services and policies that make it easier for people to have children without sacrificing their career or threatening their financial stability

      1. I didn’t say that only education and affluence affected birth rates, I said they were the biggest factors. War bumps baby births, recession drops it. Perhaps the increased availability in fertility treatments increased women’s birth rate, or it might have been our extended birth rate timeline–a woman can easily have children well into her 40s.

        And, again, fertility rates increase when they become the richest in the world–are they seeing increased migration to bump those numbers? And “richest in the world” basically means here “socialist family policies”, which doesn’t apply to Japan or the US at the moment.

        1. Here’s a novel idea: if you have questions, maybe you could actually read something on the subject.

          I get that you have a pet theory that an affluent and educated population will always have a fertility rate below the replacement rate, that rich countries can only avoid a demographic cliff by shipping in poor people from other places who will continue to have lots of children, and that social policy has no effect on whether rich populations will have more children. But as many people have pointed out to you, there are actual facts out there that contradict your theory and that you would benefit from learning something about.

          Your most recent post above said:

          Italy and Japan don’t want foreigners, so they’re in freefall and pretty fucked.

          France and America are more open to immigrants, and doing better.

          My original premise is that social programs for parents won’t stop overall population loss in affluent first world nations still stands.

          That’s just straight-up nonsense. For one thing, you haven’t actually shown any reason to believe that social programs don’t increase fertility rates. The OECD, which has studied and modeled the issue, says that they do. In fact, the OECD says that changes to social programs could bring Japan’s fertility rate — “in freefall, pretty much fucked” Japan — up to 2.0, which is very nearly replacement rate. So I’m not really sure why you think your premise “still stands.”

          For another, you continue to draw unwarranted conclusions about the effect of demographics on the current economic situations of different countries, ignoring the far more significant reasons — government spending, public debt, unemployment rates, types of industries, monetary policy, etc. — for those differences. Germany has the same fertility rate as Japan and a lower fertility rate than Italy, but its economy is dramatically outpacing both. Spain has the second highest immigration rate in the EU (behind Cyprus) but it’s in worse shape than anyone but Greece. Demographics are a part of the economic picture, but the determinative role you ascribe to them bears no relation to reality.

  8. Another brief point: “first world” and American babies use up more resources than non-“first world” babies, so frankly we should be having less of the former; if one American baby equals like 3 Indian babies resource-wise* then the Americans are the ones who really should be stopping with the baby-making.

    *my numbers are drawn from my ass, natch

    1. I read a really great take-down of all of those “China and India are having too many babeez and will drown us in their green house gases” articles that showed that if the east coast of the United States stopped having babies for a certain number of years (10?), the reduction of carbon emissions there would more than make up for India becoming fully industrialized in the next 30 years. I can’t seem to find it again, though.

    2. My resource management textbook stated it as about 1 American baby using the same resources as about 200 babies in Bangladesh… definitely something to think about when considering overpopulation.

  9. You could also argue that these singles are actually very unselfish and help combat over population.

    In the long run we need to move towards a world where we only reproduce at the replacement rate, so we should not depend on a system where we need an unsustainable age demographic.

    I see the better question to be about which type of society we should have that will function well with a lower birth rate, rather that how we should try to increase the birth rate back to historical levels.

    1. Right. To be clear, I don’t actually think singles are selfish! I think most of us quite value children and marriage, even if we don’t want either (or only want one of the two). We just see them as serious responsibilities and not defaults. That’s a good thing, and it’s not selfish or immature — it’s pretty grown-up, I think.

      1. In a similar line, I take the tack that, in a just world, I’d receive a substantial pension for being of a non-siring disposition, for who in hir right mind would want me to reproduce?

    2. If we’re gonna increase the birth rate back to historical levels we’d better step up the infant mortality rate a ton, too. :p

    1. Thank you. I was about to post the same thing. Why is a shrinking population necessarily bad? There are other ways to fund retirement systems than dumping yet more people onto the planet (e.g. raise taxes). Don’t worry robot warriors/drones will guard Western Culture from any imminent invasions by countries with birth rates of 7+, even though they are too poor to even plan an invasion.

      1. Thank u both, worldwide population is already far higher than what is sustainable, allow immigration for the wealthy countries from the poor and u have dealt with that whole declining population issue. We are on a crash diet, read about how we use oil to increase crop production and we cannot sustain. I argue declining birth rates are a survival instinct of our species.

        1. IPad posted too soon

          Basically our population worldwide is too high, wealthy countries pop will lower birthdate as education increases, is fine, will force us to accept immigration is the answer and lessen poverty in other parts of the world. So much more but typing on ipad is driving me batshit

  10. I’ve heard the theory that the reason the US is so much more religious than Europe is a kind of fertility bias. I’m not sure how much it actually explains, but it goes something like this:

    In both Europe and the US, people tend to be more secular than their parents. But in the US, much more so than in Europe, adherence to certain sects like Mormonism or Southern Baptism has been positively correlated with number of kids over several generations. Of course, people don’t literally ‘inherit’ religious belief from their parents, but young children are much easier to persuade than adults, so the conservatives’ greater access to children has given them a demographic advantage at the national level to make up for the tendency towards secularism at the individual level.

    At any rate, it’s clear that conservatives in the US believe this and some have it as a deliberate strategy (with groups like the ‘Quiverfull’ movement just being the most extreme examples).

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that the best way to help society is to have one or two kids of your own in order to teach them progressive values. Far better to reach out to people who have been brought up in oppressive environments and help them empower themselves.

    1. For this to work, it really has to be a community that is extremely insular and segregated, so that the childrens’ values and lives can be controlled all the way into adulthood, and then into the next generation.

      Possibly the most successful in that regard are certain sects of ultra Orthodox Jews, as they’re the only fundamentalist natalist movement I know of that has actually managed to make a significant change in a country’s demography and politics (Israel’s) based solely on their birth rate. Whereas Quiverfull only aspires for universal homeschooling and total isolation, some Chassidic sects, such as the Satmars of NYC, have essentially achieved it and lived as such for decades.

      The problem with relying on reaching out to those who have been brought up in oppressive environments and helping them leave if they want is that those that leave tend to drop-off in fertility, whereas those who stay maintain high fertility into the next generation. Over the long run one does wonder whether these fundamentalist natalist movements will fizzle or whether they’ll become demographically significant in their own right.

  11. When I read Douthat, I first thought that the reply to his asinine “decadence” comment would be to bring up the tax code.

    You know, the one that means married couple and people with children get tax breaks. Not that I think decadent is an appropriate way to describe anyone trying to find the money to raise a child, OR single folks living without tax help, but it is a significant issue to mention when we do that family-or-single calculus.

  12. I take issue with this bit: “In reality, most of these selfish singles are in fact eventually getting married and having babies. They’re just doing it later. ” not only does the dropping marriage rate contradict that statement, it comes across as

    “don’t worry, these luxury-obsessed selfish fools do become NORMAL one day!!!”

        1. There’s a world of difference between what you seem to think we do and allowing bigoted racist assholes another platform from which to spew your hate.

    1. No, no it isn’t Foxy.

      What is it with people ignoring reality and substituting their own made up fanciful ones on these discussion threads lately?

  13. You know, they’re right, though. Having a child is a horrible, horrible thing and a real sacrifice. I mean, fuck, I spend a portion of my days doing dreadfully mundane things with the small person, like playing board games, watching anime or sporking creationist documentaries. Portions of my days when I could, instead, be hanging out with my cool amazing adult friends and…playing board games, watching anime or sporking creationist documentaries! THE AGONY! THE ANGUISHING!

    (Yes, ftr, she actually does spork creationist documentaries. It’s adorable.)

      1. … well. The thing is, my kid watches pretty much any non-sexually-graphic stuff with Valoniel and I, so I guess about the only different anime I could be watching would be, like, porn.

        …which leads me to my next thought: if they think that it’s not that non-childing adults would do different things, but that they’d do things differently, then do these finger-waggling Professional Parentifiers think childfree/less adults do? Clearly the answer is ALL PORN ALL THE TIME. PORN AGAIN CHILDFREERS. FOR YOUR PORN ONLY. PORN FREE AND LIVING PROUD. Or something. I dunno. I was distracted by the PORNUCOPIA.

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