I read a NYT article about the new demographic woes our country is in due to childbearing plummetting even further than its non replacement rate ten years ago. Ten years ago, it was mostly women with higher education who put off having children; now it is all women, though unsurprisingly, rural and small-town women still have the highest birthrates in the country. More on that in a minute. Two of the biggest demographic plunges have occurred in unmarried women and in the daughters of Hispanic immigrants (that latter group used to have the highest birthrate in the nation.)
There is a lot to unpack in the article, though none of it is surprising or new information. I have talked with enough millenials to know all their excuses. They were handed a terrible economy. They can’t buy nice houses. There are few safety nets in the US, such as government care packages, free childcare, and paid maternity/paternity leave (they want both). They will usually bring up Finland, as Finland does have an extensive social welfare system for new parents and was meme-lauded on social media by young wannabe socialists for years. Meme-lauding and its counterpart, meme-shaming, is for people who want to grasp an ideal but who don’t want to be pestered by actual context; another popular one is Iceland and its books-for-Christmas meme. By the way, books are lovely if you have a literate population, which we mostly don’t, but the meme didn’t go into the fact that book-giving increased in popularity because other products were too hard to get during World War II. I won’t go into the egregious non-contextual meme-shaming, such as calling St. Augustine a misogynist, because that’s an entirely different subject that has more to do with our new illiteracy than it does our demographic problems.
The point about Iceland and its books is peripherally relevant, though, because it demonstrates that a culture’s values change when the people are deprived of material goods — generally for the better. This extends to one of the highest values we should be lauding: human life and families. There is probably a way to memify the actual reality, but I’m not the clever sort, so I’ll put it bluntly: the more material safety nets we have, the more we despise life. There is no way to get around the facts. The countries with the highest demographic declines are in the ones with the largest social welfare systems. That includes Finland, by the way. If they are resorting to new baby care packages from the state, instead of good old-fashioned parties where female friends and family members bring gifts to the mother-to-be, it means they are desperate. Their culture will die without a new generation. Even more relevant (to a government), there soon won’t be a workforce big enough to support the system that benefits those at the top. And this is really bad news for countries that might not be as appealing to new immigrants as, say, France.
That is not to mention that new immigrants only temporarily relieve the labor problem in countries where the natives refuse to have children. What happens when these immigrants are inculcated in the anti-life system? Like the daughters of Hispanic immigrants to the US, they also stop having children.
But why is our system so anti-life? Isn’t that the most relevant question? If you take a simple approach and note that the only people in the world who are having children at replacement level or above are poor, rural, or non-western nations, it’s also easy to make a case that western materialism is counterproductive to having children. All those excuses, such as, I can’t afford to buy a house; therefore, I can’t have children are meaningless. That house isn’t going to change where the heart is when the heart is deeply steeped in pursuing goals that can’t possibly bring fulfillment.
In the NYT article (I’m sure you can go find it if you want; I don’t feel like linking it), a female professor of something or other notes that it’s a powerful thing to be able to do what you want in this life. Is it, though? Is it really? Actually, you should read the article because the power that these young women are pretending is fulfillment is to the tune of….wait for it, being dental hygienists or cosmetologists or nurses. They aren’t trying to save the orphans like Mother Therese; they aren’t trying to invent a new life-saving medicine; they aren’t even trying to write a great American novel…which, by the way, I’m in pursuit of while raising my offspring. It’s actually a doable pursuit while raising a family, and it gives you something profound to write about, at the very least. But our young women, on the other hand, want to forgo the most important part of life to clean your teeth. That is what materialism does to the soul. It shrivels it to a prune-like stature.
Really, the most disturbing sign in our demographic problems is that unmarried girls and women are no longer having children. Hang on a minute, am I not a hyper-conservative Christian? Well, yes, but it used to be normal and natural for young men and women to want to have sex. In a moral society, the answer to this is to encourage marriage and to socially shame those who don’t wait. Socially shame…yes, I mean that, but only until they have shown constancy in settling down with a spouse. And then they are accepted into polite society again. But young people are over-sexualized to the point that it’s meaningless to them. It’s just grossness after a while, instead of being something beautiful. It’s not a happy pursuit anymore, where the young couple can’t wait to see each other naked. It’s old news; it’s boring and, besides, the nurse at school slapped a Norplant in the females’ arms starting at age fourteen. There is nothing for them to pursue but materialism. I mean, even the Girl Scout cookie boxes tell them pursuing a career is the most meaningful struggle in life.
Now back to small rural towns having the highest birthrates in the US. It fits with everything I’ve just said. There are few good jobs in small towns. There are few stores to shop at. The real estate market is limited. The schools may not yet be slapping Norplants in teen girls’ arms because they don’t have the resources, or because the Baptist matriarch raises a fuss at the PTA meeting. She might even be on the school board. When you are mired in material limitations, what else are you going to do? You’re going to procreate. I hate to be a downer, but I don’t believe in Mayberry. The rate of childbearing is higher in these communities, but it is still not high enough because of influences like the internet, where videogames, social media, and porn bring materialism right into bedrooms at the touch of the finger all over the country. And many young people can’t resist its call.
So, what is the answer? There is no easy one. When our nation was at the crossroads, we chose the wrong path. Perhaps it was foisted on us while we didn’t complain because materialism feels good. It’s comfortable. It’s not hard. It’s not the grand struggle in life that makes everything worthwhile. The human soul, I suppose, is the answer. Humans can’t live like this, not forever. Their souls will cry out for more. Unfortunately, it will be too late for many.