The economy is the worst, you guys. Just really, really shitty. For instance, if you were throwing a party and were brainstorming a list of people who definitely wouldn't be invited because they'd lock themselves in the bathroom or accidentally/on purpose eat all of your cold cuts, the economy would be at the top of that list, underlined, starred and highlighted.
It's no surprise, then, that the economy makes a really awful babysitter, which is a big reason why none of the unemployed, indebted twentysomethings idling around America really want to have kids anytime in the foreseeable future. According to USA Today, the fertility rate has plummeted to its lowest point in 25 years and isn't expected to rebound anytime in the next two years, meaning that if the economy keeps sucking because it refuses to learn some good etiquette, America's birthrates could be stunted for a long time. In 2007, birthrates were at a peak of 2.12 children per woman, but, as soon as the economy passed out naked on the coffee table, those rates fell 12 percent. They're expected to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year.
While the fertility rates in other developed countries like Portugal (1.3) and Taiwan (1.1) have caused those countries many headaches, the U.S. has stayed close to a rate of 2.1, which is about the number of children each woman needs to have in order to maintain the population. The current stagnancy of the economy may turn out to be harder on birthrates than even the Great Depression. Some observers worry about what will happen to the population if more and more adults stop having kids in their prime childbearing years. Evil muppet Sam Sturgeon from Demographic Intelligence shrugs his shoulders and offers his expert opinion on the matter: "The key word would be uncertainty, a lot of uncertainty." Comforting, Sturgeon, many thanks. Others, like Stephanie Coontz at the Council on Contemporary Families, think that low birthrates can be ameliorated through public policy.
The more you delay [having children], the more you delay the possibility of a second or third child. This is probably a long-term trend that is exacerbated by the recession but also by the general hollowing out of middle-class jobs. There's a growing sense that college is prohibitively expensive, and yet your kids can't make it without a college degree, so many women may decide to have just one child. We have to think through our policies. We've got to provide better support systems for working mothers as well as fathers.
There you have it — kids suck up money and there isn't a whole lot of of money to go around if nobody's working. For now, who really cares? Kids need crazy amounts of attention and they poop everywhere. It's too much trouble. Then again, many years from now when there's nobody to put us in a nursing home because they don't love us enough to cope with our dementia, maybe our diligent use of contraception will change.
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