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America just had its lowest number of births in 32 years, report finds (cnn.com)
46 points by pseudolus 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments





As a counterpoint to most of the other “isn’t this good?” comments of this thread, let me say that humanity is, at its best, amazingly capable of invention and creating a wonderful culture.

To have more people is to have more opportunities for those who can contribute to the progress of the world.

We have shown an amazing ability to increase crop yield and, technologically, can feed the world population. That’s a feat carried out by generations of growing societies who were driven to innovate because they needed to. As long as there’s opportunities for people’s creativity there’s no such thing as the “carrying capacity” of the planet.

Yes we need to take better care of each other and the earth. But “less people = good” is not the solution to that.

We need to raise up our future with a commitment to people being able to address the problems around them, and not tell each other “it’d be better if you weren’t born”.


I don't think we need a higher population to "contribute to the progress of the world." The World Bank says that 10% of the world's population lives on less than $1.90 per day. Very few people are given high levels of education and career opportunities. The competition for those opportunities is getting more intense all the time. Many people are dropping out of the workforce due to lack of opportunity and hopelessness.

Having an additional billion people in extreme poverty is not going to make the world a more innovative, wonderful and cultural place. If we instead focus on providing more opportunity for the people who are here, that seems much better than creating more people who will only ever have extremely limited opportunity.

Most people have the innate capability to contribute at a high level, but lack the opportunity. A very small number of people, given the right resources and incentives can create massive innovations. It does not take billions.


also from the World Bank: in 1990, the percentage of world population in extreme poverty was 37%. Now it is 10%.

It looks like as the population is growing, we are becoming less poor, not more, which dismantles the rest of your argument.


I think you are actually helping to prove my point. The global fertility rate has been dropping rapidly since 1970[1]. The poverty rate has also been dropping rapidly for just about as long[2]. Isn't is possible that the increase in living standards is being driven by the decrease in birth rate? That seems more likely than more people=less poverty.

[1] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/sp.dyn.tfrt.in

[2] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GAPS


> The reflex of many economists when thinking about the fertility rate is to point to income as the likely determinant. And sure enough, between countries and over time we see that higher incomes are associated with lower fertility. But good things come together – richer countries are also healthier and better educated – and so this correlation between high incomes and low fertility alone is surely not evidence that it is increasing income that is responsible for the decrease in fertility.

https://ourworldindata.org/fertility-rate#what-explains-the-... (Our World In Data: What explains the change in the number of children women have?)

TLDR Major contributing factors are a woman's education (educated woman have fewer children, and delay having children until later in life), access to contraceptives, a reduction in infant mortality, with social norms and increases in income and quality of life to a lesser extent.

Sidenote: Thanks to Our World In Data (YC 19 NP) for performing and hosting top notch datasets and the analysis of such.


I think one idea you're thinking about is the idea of Social reproduction. [1] Warning it's a Marxist idea, so if that's just going to upset you, just skip the rest of this. But the core thought is that for people to continue civilization, there are a number of areas that just need support from financial, cultural, social and human areas. It maybe needs some refreshing to more explicitly add tech and environmental areas - but really they're covered under those categories.

While the eco side effects of reduced population pressure are beneficial, they are unintentional, while still letting all sorts of other industrial & financial processes continue to put pressure on problems like climate change. Reduced fertility can be bad from a social reproduction standpoint if poor financial and social conditions are what's driving down the rate. It drives all sorts of other economic and social problems (see Japan for a foreshadowing of this).

Still, reduced population is something we have to work through anyway if we want to make it easier to live at a sustainable level of human civilization on the Earth.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_reproduction


This is naive at best and certainly unrealistic.

There is such a thing as "carrying capacity" of the planet if only in terms of quality of life.

I'm sure people prefer spacious homes, space, parks, nature, wilderness, rather than being cramped in a crowd 24/7.

Less people is a real solution to the main problems of today.

This does not mean less opportunity. Quite the opposite this means more opportunities and better quality of life.


[flagged]


I believe this is a false argument. There is a difference between avoiding additional life instantiation, and nurturing existence life.

All of us are worth something because of our knowledge, skills, experience, that has led us to today. Whatever that value is, it is more than that of life that hasn't been conceived yet. The less people on the planet, the more resources for those people who do exist.


> Whatever that value is, it is more than that of life that hasn't been conceived yet.

Please provide some form of evidence or proof for this.

I can just as well argue that because my day-to-day work is related to fixing climate issues, your life should be ended so your resources go to me so I can do my job better and grow my team. That way, you'll also stop stealing my oxygen and emitting carbon dioxide (which is putting my children in peril, and they will also be working to fight climate change so their life is worth more than yours).


> Please provide some form of evidence or proof for this.

Killing me is murder, abortion is a medical procedure, contraceptives and other birth control methods are easily available and legal, depending on your jurisdiction. I suppose we could argue the semantics of conception and when life starts, but I'd rather not in this thread (as it will lead nowhere productive). That would seem to indicate how value has been determined at a social level.


[flagged]


A modest proposal.

On a historical level fertility rates appear, with the exception primarily of Africa, to be dropping across the board [0]. There's a concise summary by country on present fertility rates on the World Population Review website [1]. Quite a few surprises as well.

[0] https://ourworldindata.org/fertility-rate

[1] http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/total-fertility-r...


They should focus more on the fact that income hasn't risen to account for a number of expenses that makes it very impractical to have children (debt, schooling, housing, loans, etc.). This is what I feel is contributing more to the fact of lower births.

Even in European countries with generous support systems, subsidized day care, free university and paid parental leave the birthrate has plummeted (below the US in most instances).

So I am not sure that it is the cost, just rather a re-orientation of values that has been slowly taking place with the advent of birth control, plentiful food, etc. Human beings were all about the next generation for survival reasons by genetic design even if they didn't want to be.


Because the younger generations have to shoulder that. There is a reason people believe that future generation will have it worse and that undoubtedly has consequences for birth rates.

Subsidized day care and paid parental leave doesn't make up for just how much work it is to raise a child in modern times (unlike the old days where you just hoped they survived the first few years, and pretty quickly didn't bother investing much more work into them and left them to fend for themselves).

Before the "nuclear family" became a thing, people lived with their extended relatives, and raising children wasn't as much work.


Raising kids is a ton of work, but that doesn’t change the fact that only 30% of US households can afford daycare:

https://www.care.com/c/stories/2423/how-much-does-child-care...


That wouldn't make any sense for the article, which focuses on medical data. There's definitely a place to write about and discuss the subjective reasons people have for opting out of having kids (like earth possibly being on fire soon) but that doesn't have anything to do with fertility, birth weights, pre term delivery or any of the other things addressed here.

Birth rates are dropping in parts of the world where incomes have risen dramatically as well.

I think this is really more about women having lives outside the home and couples having things they'd rather do than bang.


> I think this is really more about women having lives outside the home...

I'm sure this is part of it, but a lot of men also don't want kids. I've broken up with two LTR's in the past 5 years because they were ready for marriage and kids, but I have already seen several male peers go through messy divorces where they were treated very unfairly by the family court system: losing custody, large spousal and child support payments that left them as basically indentured servants for the next decade or two, etc.

I always assumed I'd have kids, but I've changed my mind, at least if I stay in the US. While it's great that women have gained so much equality in the last 50 years, the family court system is still heavily biased against men, remnants from a time when women could not support themselves.


>I always assumed I'd have kids, but I've changed my mind, at least if I stay in the US.

The US is a terrible place to have kids. It's not just the family court system; this is a country where you can be arrested for letting your child run around outside without supervision, where you have to worry about your kid being killed in a school shooting, where you can't let your kid walk to school, where college costs are astronomical, where the teen suicide rate is very high and rising, I could go on and on. It's just not a healthy place to raise children. If you want kids, you should move to a better country for it, like any place in western Europe.


Soon, you might be locked in prison for life if you have a miscarriage In Georgia.

In a few other states, they’ve also banned terminating pregnancies because the kid definitely has a debilitating genetic defect, so there’s that.

Also, even in cases of minors involving rape and incest, some states will soon force the kid to come to term.

We’ll see if the Supreme Court upholds these laws or not, but it’s currently stacked with justices appointed specifically to ban abortions.

It’s definitely a bad time to be a female of child bearing age in this country.


What's really baffling is just how many women voted for this administration and are big supporters of it.

  this (Federal) administration
... has no standing in making or enforcing state laws.

For that matter, Trump has been pro choice for essentially his entire public life.


>For that matter, Trump has been pro choice for essentially his entire public life.

Then why don't you explain why he's appointing SCOTUS justices who absolutely aren't?


My personal view is that the birthrate in America has dropped because the amount of resources necessary to raise a kid continues to increase. The expectations of what it means to "raise a kid" continue to increase.

Financially, this means providing for them into their mid-20s, often at least through (and including) college. The costs of everything along the way -- housing, clothing, food, education -- continues to grow and outpace income growth.

The other big resource is time. You're expected now to enroll your children in a variety of activities and shuttle them around, rather than give them unstructured time to roam. Families now are more disconnected from their extended families and their communities, so it's harder to get help here. It's up to the two parents (if they're still together) who only have so much time to give.

Basically, the marginal cost of each kid continues to increase, so people have fewer children.

I think another effect is the extension of many of life's milestones. Establishing a career, getting married, etc continue to fall later and later, leaving people less time to build and raise a family.


Why are we acting like this is a bad thing? Not having a child is the single greatest thing an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint. World economy based off of infinite growth is unsustainable. America can keep this economic model for the time being by being accepting of immigrants, but eventually, the birth rate of the entire world will be in decline and will have to base an economy of a static world population, and one that will be quite older than we are used to. Progress comes with its own challenges, doing things to raise the birthrate are not the correct answer.

I always wonder how many people who share this opinion actually forgo having kids of their own.

I've noticed a strange phenomenon of people making statements like this and yet still have their own kids. I guess convincing potential competitors to stop having offspring would be a great way to ensure the success of your own genetic line.


I'm the opposite; I think it's good to have kids but I personally don't like kids and do not have any (and at 40, it's increasingly likely I never will).

Having children is a very multi-factor decision, so I doubt anyone forgoes for just that one reason, and a pretty impersonal one at that. Still, it has to factor in, even at a subconscious level for those who go childless or have fewer children.

Actually I'd argue that you can see this in action in birth rates right now in the USA and across most of the developed world. Having children is expensive. The standards for care and education keep getting higher. The available time for childcare is decreasing. It takes more and more education to be a fully participating adult member of society. That's a clear market signal to have less children and people are responding. The birthrate continues to fall and is below replacement in many countries, including the USA.

As a species, we appear to be regulating ourselves to prevent a catastrophic overshoot.


"genetic line" -- I mean, it's not like you're the pharoh pumping out 100s of children while subjugating those eunuchs.

Also, in a world of 10 billion peoople, it's not like any given individual has much precious DNA to pass on.

I have one daughter and I'd love her to have a sibling, but for various reasons I don't think it's going to happen, which kind of makes me sad, but not because I won't pass down my "line".


Just focusing on one small area of human achievement - there was just one single Chopin, Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. Unlike in science, no reason to suppose one of these composers 'would have come along anyway'.

Climate change is bad, because it could reduce the number of human lives.

Therefore, we will reduce the number of human lives to combat climate change.


Climate change is bad because it could catastrophically reduce the number of human lives by killing a bunch of people through famine and disease.

That’s not at all the same thing as reducing birth rates - which is voluntary and does not cause death and suffering.


Yes, but going from positive birth rates to negative could also have a catastrophic effect on human civilization and send us back to a darkage just when we were supposed to tackle global warming.

Maybe it won't be that bad, I've never ran the numbers, but intuition tells me population reduction has never been good for human civilisation.


Interesting. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with your statement.

However, it only seems different from a moralist perspective. Naturally, the result is the same: a species reaches its carrying capacity and the population declines.

Fascinating.


This is paperclip-optimizer logic. Climate change is a problem of irreversible ecological destruction and mass human suffering; pumping out more people as though it's a metric to be inflated is Missing The Point.

> Climate change is bad, because it could reduce the number of human lives.

No, climate change us bad because it can increase SUFFERING. To say that reduction of human lives is bad is to say we should be reproducing as much as possible. Have you maximized the number of people you have had sex with today?


Yes, I think people choosing not to have children is substantially better than death by climate disaster.

Clever, but incorrect. This is a rhetorical construction which falls apart if you don't overload the word, "reduce."

Climate change is bad because it can end human lives. The lives which it doesn't end may experience significant hardship and unhappiness.

Decreasing the rate of population growth does reduce the number of existing humans, but it doesn't induce that reduction by ending lives. It also doesn't increase the amount of hardship imposed on most humans.

Do you see why climate change and population reduction are not comparable?


Reducing the number of humans reduces a large amount of resource contention.

By not giving birth to more humans we're not killing people off. Alternative, as we see in many places, is war. War is definitely not the same thing as avoiding pregnancies.


How disingenuous. Choosing not to have children is not the same as death by climate catastrophe or death by any other means.

Climate change is bad for a lot of reasons (e.g. individual quality of life), in addition to that one.

It is people that might invent what is needed to sustainably integrate our technology with biology. It is not the absolute number that matters, especially with a stable population number, but if those people are living in a way that is sustainable over generations. Less people means fewer inventions, and potentially a societal collapse.

The idea that we should not birth new generations fosters an armageddon attitude, where it is now popular on at least parts of the left to believe the world will end in 12 years. So why think of what will birth generations if the world will end in 12 years?


No one is saying we shouldn't have new generations. We should stop growing the population. This means the number of births and the number of death each year would be about the same.

The max population of the earth is debatable, but the fact that there is a limit is not. A static population society will have to be generated. As far as fewer inventions, why focus on giving everyone a good education? Then we would have more than enough people to give us the technology needed to survive.


> No one is saying we shouldn't have new generations. We should stop growing the population. This means the number of births and the number of death each year would be about the same.

The problem in the west is not a growing population, but a decreasing one.

> The max population of the earth is debatable, but the fact that there is a limit is not.

Yes, but here we are talking about the US population of $327 million decreasing. The population on earth is 7.53 billion and it is growing elsewhere. Are you arguing that a reduction of the US population serves some larger purpose so we should not be concerned about our culture?

> As far as fewer inventions, why focus on giving everyone a good education? Then we would have more than enough people to give us the technology needed to survive.

I'll focus on higher education since in the US other levels are both free and mandatory.

Access to personal growth opportunities is very important. However, data indicate universities are often not the answer to that and it is also questionable if universities makes someone more creative [1]. Regardless 60% and increasing of the US population has taken some college.

In addition to this it is worthwhile considering what the less creative people are taught to follow in universities. Universities seem to be the center of our cultural decay and an anti-intellectual attitude of not teaching core ideas have taken hold in many schools.

Why do you think higher education would help create more innovation?

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Case-against-Education-System-Waste/d...


The distribution of who has children seems highly dysgenic -- the smartest and overall "fittest" women (in particular) have children late (and thus few), if at all. This is almost always an individually-optimal choice at the time.

A lot of this seems driven by economics and culture (two incomes are necessary for modern lifestyle; rewards of employment vs home are high (in financial and psychological terms); career, particularly earlier career in the more competitive tracks, is very difficult to juggle with being a parent, particularly for women). Some of this might be addressable (better childcare and child-friendly policies at top employers, especially for junior employees), but a lot of it isn't.

I think there's something worse about differential population growth rates across countries/cultures than a simple across-the-board reduction, but I don't think this is the best environment for that discussion.


>the smartest and overall "fittest" women (in particular) have children late (and thus few)

Richest and most educated =/= "smartest" and "fittest."

Even your estimation of "fittest" is totally subjective. From a natural selection perspective, the ones with more reproductive success are the fitter ones. And it's not at all established that people with high socio-economic status are genetically smarter or better on any level than low SES individuals. It's more likely to be nurture and access to resources and parenting styles that set them up for success.


In capitalist societies with high socioeconomic mobility (where your socioeconomic status is only loosely correlated to your parents’), there are good reasons to believe high socioeconomic status correlates to some sort of genetic fitness.

Such economies typically have strong public education, fair hiring practices, low barriers to entrepreneurship, and a strong social safety net.

The US had such an economy in the post WWII years, but economic mobility has dropped in recent years. (Probably because we gutted the educational system, and bankrupt people that get sick. Also, WWII trained an unprecedented number of mechanics and engineers in the US.)


>Such economies typically have strong public education, fair hiring practices, low barriers to entrepreneurship, and a strong social safety net.

Even then you're just assessing how well people fit into a routinized public education system or in a traditional office environment. It privileges a very specific type of skill set at the expense of many others.


It is worthwhile considering that smart is just one type of adaptiveness in certain roles within a high-functioning culture. Noone understands how the whole create a culture that enables a safe and predictable life over a large land over all ages, but we do know that extremely smart people only create a small part of living culture. However, as the collapse of Rome showed once its going away its going away fast.

The unfortunate aspect of some smart people is that we lack the wisdom to understand that the theories we fall in love with are just shadows of the reality. Even when ideas at their extreme fail we stick to them as if they are an appendix; e.g. capitalism in the extreme even after it has robbed us of meaning, communism even after it caused large-scale hunger and suffering wherever it was implemented.

The problem with the anti-human "environmental" attitude is that it misses the forest for the trees by viewing people as foreign elements in the biosphere. It is as such a theory that anyone but some smart people can spot as unadaptive to reality.


Or maybe the people that will solve this issue aren't alive today but will be part of the next generation. So it's on us to have children, educate them as much as we can, teach them how to be strong critical-thinkers, leaders, or whatever will help the next generation tackle the challenges ahead.

That's not to say that everyone should have children, some people cannot have children for a variety of reasons. But if you have a partner and you both are willing, helping the next generation be equipped for the struggles ahead should be an inspiring challenge to step up to, not to cower away from.


Why are we acting like this is a bad thing?

Is your argument that there are no downsides to a shrinking population? I'm not so sure the evidence would support such a stance.


Are there disadvantages not related to our economic system? Because without those I don't even think it would be a competition.

Lower genetic diversity, less species resiliency, lower growth for humanity across the board due to less humans exploring various problem spaces.... there are a lot of downsides to declining populations, depending on the surrounding circumstances/causes, just as there are upsides.

I’m completely drawing a blank as to why people having fewer children would be a bad thing for anyone, aside from the Idiocracy scenario. I can think of all kinds of reasons why it would be a good or neutral thing, but I can’t think of any downsides.

When there's more retirees and elderly people than younger workers to support them, how do you think our economic systems are going to survive?

Automation continues to reduce the fraction of people that need to work.

Also, we won’t need nearly as much new construction, which frees up a ton of workers.

I don’t think an aging population is likely to lead to labor shortages any time soon, at least in the US.


No one is talking about a labor shortage! The problem is a consumer shortage. Automation only makes it worse.

Aging population with a shrinking population means less people to buy goods. Automation means less people employed. This is bad for growth. Economic expansion requires increases in production and consumption.


By keeping older adults working and stopping age discrimination.

The downsides should be addressed instead of kicked further down the road. Less people on the planet is better, regardless of the economic and social challenges it presents.

> Less people on the planet is better, regardless of the economic and social challenges it presents.

To quote the dude, "Yeah, well, that's just like your opinion, man."


> Not having a child is the single greatest thing an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

So what?

I say that in all sincerity. You have internalized your worldview to the point that it's a religion you don't realize you believe.

Why is reducing my carbon footprint a fundamental good? Ultimately, any explanation will come down to the meaning of life, and it is very likely that you and I might understand our purposes here differently.


I agree. Until we get our population under control we should be encouraging (not mandating) people to not have more than 2 children. Unfortunately, it is the developing world where this is largely double what is sustainable for our planet. It will eventually get solved by lack of water or food and in some cases reaching a high enough standard of living that people stop having 6 kids expecting that maybe 2 will survive.

> Not having a child is the single greatest thing an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

No, it's not. Because, to start with, it's reducing someone else’s carbon footprint.

And for most people, it's not even the biggest thing they can do Tor educe someone else's carbon footprint, as, for most, reducing their own potential children's carbon footprints to zero is a much smaller reduction than could be obtained by murdering someone richer (especially someone richer and less environmentally conscious.)


I hold out hope that one day we can get to a point where humans can leave the earth in a better state than when we entered it. We certainly have the intelligence to do so. So I am not throwing in the towel just yet. Of course, there is an optimal population number somewhere between 0 and infinity.

>Why are we acting like this is a bad thing? Not having a child is the single greatest thing an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

Because we also care about our communities and countries (and local cultures, etc), not just the world or humanity in abstract.


I'll admit that I sped through it because I'm currently trying to wrangle a toddler but does the article present it as a bad thing? It's possible I missed it but I didn't see that. Not having kids is probably a great decision for most people.

I fully agree. The article does have some good points about the problems associated with on-average later births.

I am in constant fear of losing my job not being able to pay my mortgage and becoming homeless. Why would anyone have babies under these circumstances?

Why would you take a mortgage, probably the biggest investment in your life, if you don't plan to have kids? Even in places where its actually cheaper to pay mortgage compared to renting there are so many negative aspects to committing to strict payment regime for next 20+ years to a single place, that it doesn't make any logical sense.

In no kids scenario is much better to rent, adapt your place of live to your current situation/market/plans, when retiring just move someplace dirt cheap and awesome.

If you have kids, its a huge value that you can pass to them, if done smartly (if not, it will probably destroy offspring's relationships between them for life).


If you have a mortgage, your rent payment is locked in. If you rent, you're subject to annual increases in rent (which can be steep, and higher than inflation).

There are many factors that determine if buying or renting is better for your scenario. Below is a calculator the NY Times publishes which lets you adjust variables to provide an answer based on inputs.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/buy-rent-calc... (NY Times: Is It Better to Rent or Buy?)


In my forties now. Bought it few years back when things weren’t looking so bad. I have two jobs since then.

That last line can be especially true..

I'd like to see data on fertility rates compared across all the socioeconomic space, over time.

I suspect you're not much different than most people: they may want/desire children but due to the ongoing economic climate, are forgoing children. That trend would be a bit more evident if most those in the higher socioeconomic were comparatively either increasing fertility rates or remaining relatively constant over time to those at the lower end of the spectrum. There are of course many other factors to look at but that would be a good start.

If fertility rates across the entire socioeconomic spectrum is at a reasonable decline, then overall (assuming there isn't some huge epidemic we're unaware of), it's probably a good thing. Population saturation points should not be artificially set by our current economic system since it's pretty flawed across the board in most aspects, I can't imagine its a useful constraint for determining genetic diversity and growth for humanity.


I wouldn't. But fortunately for us, our ancestors did.

To pay for a social safety net.

People do adapt, situation does get better. You can afford a mortgage, that is huge. Most people are not lucky to have their own shelter and they are renting.

Noone said child is an economical decision. It is the worst economical decision in fact.


I can't help but feel that general decadence in the last ~40-50 years influenced this.

Other reasons, as far as I can see are:

The destruction of the concept of (nuclear) family. The abject sexual promiscuity and the normalization of it.

The decadence of the Western civilization and the disregard of the values congruent with Christianity resulted in the state that we are in now.

We see the moral values (or worse, the 10 commandments) as something that's archaic, that has no place in a "modern" society and we absolutely tolerate everything and we are afraid of shaming things that should be shamed (based on the effects they produce).

I ask myself, is there some behavior or value that we are allowed to judge people on?

Who do we think we are that we normalize every single demented thing, and additionally we think we have progressed our civilization because of it?

Don't we study history?

(edited - removed a quote that I mistakenly attributed to Aristotle)


I think this is an important discussion to have but unfortunately many are not ready to hear it because it involves taking responsibility for our actions.

The truth is maintaining healthy family relationships is difficult enough, let alone having and raising children. It's much easier to get a dog and then have the free time to go to Coachella on the weekend. No parents in sight, a generation of hedonistic babies that discover "adulting" when they hit 34.

And this doesn't even need to be a God argument, Darwin alone would say what we're doing is self-destructive from a biological point of view.


Sadly, I do not think Aristotle said that, it actually originated from an American preacher.

On the topic of Christianity in relation to the posted article honestly my first thought was that we were commanded to "Go forth and multiply."

>>I ask myself, is there some behavior or value that we are allowed to judge people on?

... of course, you will be judged by a lot of readers for your religion beliefs and traditional moral framework


I don't believe that quote is anything Aristotle said.

Oh, that's interesting! I've read it somewhere attributed to Aristotle for sure!

Anyways, the point stands - should we tolerate everything, at all cases, always? Doesn't sound right to me


I wonder if and how much modern dating(apps) in the US has contributed to this?

This subject always confused me. On one hand, we're told to work to continue this trend in the interest of reducing pollution and carbon footprint and quell the dangers of overpopulation. On the other hand, we're told that shrinking birthrates are a problem, and that we must import workers from overseas to make up what we're losing. And, by crazy coincidence, doing so would be great for massive corporations.

Because personality is somewhat heritable and because some personality traits, such as Agreeableness, tend to cause people to want more kids we should expect that this trend will reverse itself given enough time.

http://hopefullyintersting.blogspot.com/2018/05/falling-fert...


But is that a bad thing? and I'm not just speaking about America, the entire world I believe there's a decline in Japan's & China's birth rate as well.

In economic terms I don't think it can be good.

I suppose, but the isn't there more "pros" vs "cons" with a bit smaller population? currently we're sitting close to 7 billion, would (snap) 3.5 billion be enough to sustain economic growth?

I see someone mentioned population growth is the safety net for once people get older the younger generation pays into the older population retirement. There's an issue with that thought, won't it be unsustainable after the population reaches a certain threshold?


Certainly one day the system will be unsustainable. You can sustain growth for a little while with a stable population by increasing consumption, but once the succeeding generations have the same number of buyers or fewer, it becomes very challenging to find new dollars to buy more goods.

As to your question about the snap... 3.5 billion would be an economic disaster and because people have fewer children it would take forever to rebuild that wealth.


> There's an issue with that thought, won't it be unsustainable after the population reaches a certain threshold?

Perhaps, but the hard limits set by physics are probably ludicrously high, and the soft limit set by physical and social technology can, in theory, improve alongaide population until they hit the hard limits.


I'm worried about the shocks, not about the decline itself.

I mean wouldn't it be better if the changes were more gradual?


> I'm worried about the shocks, not about the decline itself.

Yeah, in the long term, we’re all dead. The path is all that matters, not the steady end state.


Based on how we've set up social security, yes this is a problem.

From an ecological perspective not a bad thing. From a national economy perspective, it is a very bad thing for two reasons.

Capitalism requires an expansion of consumption to grow. Even in a recession/depression the old natural birth rate guaranteed that there would be a larger body of workers and consumers to grow the economy when you came out of it.

Secondly, the elderly require more care (Social Security, Medicare) while also paying lower taxes mostly because of lower earnings. Our social support systems are funded primarily on the assumption that there will always be more young people than old paying into the system to support it.

Once countries stop growing in population the weight of the old really takes its toll on growth.

Export oriented countries can get away with it for a little longer because the populations growing in other countries will support their economies for a while. Japan would otherwise have collapsed by now under the weight of a shrinking population.

Aside from a small core of anti-immigration extremists in the US, most people on the right and left, including our very Orange President, are for legal immigration, which is the best way to stave off population decline.


> Secondly, the elderly require more care (Social Security, Medicare) while also paying lower taxes mostly because of lower earnings. Our social support systems are funded primarily on the assumption that there will always be more young people than old paying into the system to support it.

Isn't this primarily a problem of poor planning? Making the young pay their fair share to ensure stability of that individual for the future seems like the proper course of action.

To think of it differently.. I know when I'm old life is going to get expensive. I'm trying hard to make sure I don't end life broke and in a terrible care facility. Why is the government not also thinking like this with regards to how they handle finances? Is it surprising that people get old?

Of course this does not help the situation we're in current. Where the old did not properly pay for their own support.


You're assuming that lowering human population would coincide with a lowering of growth.

The labor market is increasingly becoming machine-based, rather than human-based. As the number of humans drops, the number of machines grows.

We need fewer humans to maintain growth, so dropping birth rates could be a good thing, since machines require less maintenance than humans.


Interesting theory, but in order for economic growth to occur someone has to be there to buy the goods that these machines will be producing. Fewer humans alive to buy goods with fewer jobs equals a shrinking economy, regardless of how the goods are produced.

At that point we would probably start looking at other economic systems anyway.


That assumes machines will not consume goods.

> From a national economy perspective, it is a very bad thing for two reasons.

Not necessarily.

Per capita metrics are more important that national metrics. I.e. I don't care what the size of the national economy is as long as people as individually getting better off.


Yes, there will be a drop in growth. More and more jobs will be automated away and soon most jobs will be the government paying people to take care of our elderly. There won't be many other jobs available on the whole.

>Once countries stop growing in population the weight of the old really takes its toll on growth.

This is a fallacy. The ratio of elderly is fixed; even if it grows somewhat it can't grow indefinitely. Meanwhile productivity usually grows exponentially. Therefore the elderly population cannot be a drag on growth.


Interesting theory that is contrary to any actual observable evidence. Look at any country with an aging and shrinking population.

Correlation is not causation. Countries with aging populations are ones that have undergone the demographic transition. They have low growth because they are already highly developed and the opportunity for increasing productivity is low, not because they have too many old people.

So you are admitting that if a country is highly developed and have undergone a demographic transition they have low growth. You just proved my point, thank you.

No. Your point was that low population growth produces a drag on productivity growth because of an aging population. This is wrong; to reiterate, advanced economies have low population growth because they have undergone a demographic transition - i.e., they have gone from high birth rates and high death rates to low birth rates and low death rates. This is a result of a number of factors, mostly relating to the increasing rights of women. The effect of this is a higher fraction of elderly in the population. However, growth (per capita) is exponential; the fraction of elderly is fixed. Therefore the fraction of elderly cannot be a drag on growth.

The demographic transition is the result of development, which usually brings with it increasing mobility for women and depresses birth rates. Another, independent, effect of development is low growth rates, because a developed economy has less room for productivity growth (i.e., when you give an uneducated person an education and some technology, you can increase their productivity - it's hard to do the same with an educated, tech-savvy person).

To sum up: development causes demographic transition causes aging. Development also causes low growth rates. Aging does not cause low growth rates.


Seeking asylum is legal immigration.

It is within the rights of any nation to deny asylum to asylum seekers as well as to define the criteria that qualify asylum, otherwise anyone who shows up at the border saying "my country is poor and dangerous and I want to live here" could use asylum as a loophole.

Yes, a nation sets its own laws and chooses what treaties it adopts.

> Capitalism requires an expansion of consumption to grow

But aggregate growth isn't important, per capita growth is, and that only requires per capita increases in consumption.

Which is actually easier, with fixed resources, with a shrinking population.

OTOH, support of an aging population is an issue.

On the third hand, for the near term, immigration can handle that for most countries facing that problem.

> Aside from a small core of anti-immigration extremists in the US, most people on the right and left, including our very Orange President, are for legal immigration, which is the best way to stave off population decline.

That's not true; there is a very large group, including “our very Orange President”, that are opposed to immigration in general, and are actively working to reduce the level of legal immigration, and especially targeting the legal immigrants that do the most to contribute to the viability of social support strucutures by paying heavily into payroll tax funded trust funds.


Only about 30% of people want overall immigration decreased according to Gallup and the President wants a merit based immigration system and fewer unskilled immigrants, which is hardly being opposed to immigration.

Historically, per capita consumption is more difficult to increase than growing the overall size of the population (and US consumers already lead the world in consumption so I don't see that being a solution for us). It works well for export oriented countries with protectionist policies that promote the growth of a middle class.

I am not in favor of population growth, it is just basic capitalism/economics. At some point flat or declining global population will force us to find a better system than the one we have.




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