For the first time since the baby boom of the post WWII era, the United States has reached the rate of births needed for a generation to replace itself. The U.S. population, which just topped 300 million, is expected to hit 400 million by 2040 and, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, American women are having an average of 2.1 babies each. The biggest increase in baby-making was in the 20-24 year old age group, and experts say part of the babymania is due to economic prosperity. Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families told USA Today: "We do know that birthrates ticked up quite a bit among the most affluent...Kids are luxury goods, and some of this uptick may be stay-at-home moms."
This sentiment was echoed in a New York Observer essay from earlier this year in which writer Molly Jong-Fast posited that the rich are having multas rugrats because "children last a lot longer than Jay Mendel minks and Hermès Birkins." Basically, having children is an exercise in narcissism! "From Sandy Weill (and his hospital) to Donald Trump (and his giant buildings with his giant name emblazoned on them in giant bronze letters), or Nina Griscom's shop or Tory Burch's clothing line, today's rich are obsessed with the idea of immortality in whatever shape that might take...As the English aristocracy has known for centuries, children are our only real way of perpetuating our names," Jong-Fast wrote.
Jong-Fast also noted the increase in stay-at-home moms amongst New York's uber rich. These are not the power couples so glorified in the 80s with their matching shoulder pads; today's penthouse dwellers "just hop right out of school and into the maternity ward: Do not pass go, do not collect even one paycheck. And these women who never worked can start popping them out in their 20's, which means that normal women can't possibly catch up. Maybe in that way, these young never-working baby-poppers are really asserting their power against a world filled with Ivy-educated egg freezers."
Reading this pair of articles makes me think exclusively of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Except for insurance guru Vicki, most of the women on that program don't have careers but started popping out wee ones in their early 20s. (Now, they spend their days binge-drinking and planning ludicrously expensive weddings to their wealthy Republican third husbands.) Are the Real Housewives encouraging the children-as-luxury good model? Are celebrities like Angelina Jolie doing the same? Are all these people destroying the delicate moral fabric of our nation? Fuck if I know, but the USA Today article notes that when birthrates are low, there aren't enough people around to support the elderly, and I certainly want someone to take care of me in my dotage.