Is It About Time We Made A "Pregnancy Pact" Of Our Own?

Illustration for article titled Is It About Time We Made A "Pregnancy Pact" Of Our Own?

The conventional wisdom holds that media types are biased in favor of the Theory of Evolution. So why is it all they seem to print these days are stories hellbent on convincing us that the WRONG PEOPLE are procreating?? No doubt you, too, spent more time over the past few months consuming the latest on the Duggar family and the Spears family, that mysteriously-coiffed cult of inbreds in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Pedophiles and the seventeen bored teenagers' homeless deadbeat boyfriends than you did having unprotected sex. But is that good for the future of society? The Yemeni man who sold his 8-year-old daughter to the 30-year-old child molester only did it because he had 15 other children to feed on his panhandling income. And yet three thousand miles northwest in an unspeakably gorgeous town in Italy, the week's New York Times Magazine informs us, the mayor is paying women ten thousand Euros for every baby they can make.

And Italy, (where the birth rate is now about 1.3) isn't the only sumptuous locale where the birth rate is falling drastically short of the 2.1 "replacement rate": Greece and Spain are low on kids, too. But not, somehow, by choice: a European Commission survey found that the average European woman wants 2.36 children - and in Italy the answer was actually higher than average! But here's the catch.

According to Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania, analysis of recent studies showed that "high fertility was associated with high female labor-force participation . . . and the lowest fertility levels in Europe since the mid-1990s are often found in countries with the lowest female labor-force participation." In other words, working mothers are having more babies than stay-at-home moms.

How can this be? A study released in February of this year by Letizia Mencarini, the demographer from the University of Turin, and three of her colleagues compared the situation of women in Italy and the Netherlands. They found that a greater percentage of Dutch women than Italian women are in the work force but that, at the same time, the fertility rate in the Netherlands is significantly higher (1.73 compared to 1.33). In both countries, people tend to have traditional views about gender roles, but Italian society is considerably more conservative in this regard, and this seems to be a decisive difference. The hypothesis the sociologists set out to test was borne out by the data: women who do more than 75 percent of the housework and child care are less likely to want to have another child than women whose husbands or partners share the load. Put differently, Dutch fathers change more diapers, pick up more kids after soccer practice and clean up the living room more often than Italian fathers; therefore, relative to the population, there are more Dutch babies than Italian babies being born. As Mencarini said, "It's about how much the man participates in child care."


In other words:

By this logic, the worst sort of system is one that partly buys into the modern world - expanding educational and employment opportunities for women - but keeps its traditional mind-set. This would seem to define the demographic crisis that Italy, Spain and Greece find themselves in - and, perhaps, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of the world.

Put another way, stay away from Catholics, Asia hands and maybe classics majors. Society doesn't want their genes anyway. (Guess who's hereby off the hook?) Go find a Danish boyfriend and move to Italy once you're officially Euro! There's your pregnancy pact.

No Babies? [NYT Mag]

Tiny Voices Defy Child Marriage In Yemen [NYT]

Related: Mayor Plans of "Listening Posts" On Teen Pregnancy [Gloucester Times]

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@rmric0: And deodorant! I would not want to live in a world without deodorant. It's bad enough living in a city (Austin) where some people think patchouli is a viable substitute (it is not). I am also one of those horrid classics majors (though it's archaeology, which is slightly different as it falls along the classics/anthropology divide) and there is no way in hell I would want to bring back the Greek/Roman system, because I also like a world without slavery and disenfranchisement of women and non-native citizens.