What to Expect When No One's Expecting

What to Expect When No One's Expecting

April 03, 2013 12:00 ET
Everything you know about demographics is wrong. The world is not overcrowded. Population growth is not headed toward infinity. In fact, the opposite is true. Fertility decline is a global phenomenon and as people across the world have stopped having babies we now face a future in which populations will actually begin shrinking within a few generations. Everywhere from Iran to India to Brazil to Germany, people have fewer children with each passing year. And it's happening in America, too. The American fertility rate has been below the replacement level for a generation and the only thing keeping our population from shrinking is the massive influx of immigrants we've received over the

Everything you know about demographics is wrong. The world is not overcrowded. Population growth is not headed toward infinity. In fact, the opposite is true. Fertility decline is a global phenomenon and as people across the world have stopped having babies we now face a future in which populations will actually begin shrinking within a few generations. Everywhere from Iran to India to Brazil to Germany, people have fewer children with each passing year.

And it's happening in America, too. The American fertility rate has been below the replacement level for a generation and the only thing keeping our population from shrinking is the massive influx of immigrants we've received over the last 30 years. But immigration is only a temporary fix, not a real solution.

If America is going to avoid the demographic death spiral the rest of the world is in, we must first understand what happened to bring us to this point. How the cultural transformations of the last 40 years in sex, education, marriage, economics, and religious life have pushed people to have fewer and fewer babies.

Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard in Washington, D.C. His writings have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Claremont Review of Books, First Things, and elsewhere. His book on demographics, What to Expect When No One's Expecting, will be published in February by Encounter. He blogs regularly at jonathanlast.com and lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.

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Everything you know about demographics is wrong. The world is not overcrowded. Population growth is not headed toward infinity. In fact, the opposite is true. Fertility decline is a global phenomenon and as people across the world have stopped having babies we now face a future in which populations will actually begin shrinking within a few generations. Everywhere from Iran to India to Brazil to Germany, people have fewer children with each passing year.

And it's happening in America, too. The American fertility rate has been below the replacement level for a generation and the only thing keeping our population from shrinking is the massive influx of immigrants we've received over the last 30 years. But immigration is only a temporary fix, not a real solution.

If America is going to avoid the demographic death spiral the rest of the world is in, we must first understand what happened to bring us to this point. How the cultural transformations of the last 40 years in sex, education, marriage, economics, and religious life have pushed people to have fewer and fewer babies.

Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard in Washington, D.C. His writings have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Claremont Review of Books, First Things, and elsewhere. His book on demographics, What to Expect When No One's Expecting, will be published in February by Encounter. He blogs regularly at jonathanlast.com and lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.

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