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Why bother having babies? There's a reason rising childlessness is affecting only one section of Western society

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November 11, 2020   7 mins

Imagine a world in which girls, when they reach puberty, are required to visit a state-run centre, dressed in their prettiest frocks, and take a lottery ticket. A white ticket means motherhood, a blue ticket means a permanent contraceptive device. This is the scenario Sophie Mackintosh conjures in her novel Blue Ticket.

Her protagonist picks blue, and is initially delighted, having been told all her life that motherhood is an intolerable burden. Only later does the girl wonder if that’s true, as she looks at another blue ticket plucker:

“She seemed truly happy. Her skin was smooth, her clothes seemed expensive. I wondered what she might do afterwards with her day, where she worked, what her house was like, whether she was bound to anyone or anything, whether she was thankful for her freedom.”

Separated from their white ticket counterparts, blue tickets live in a world where there is no family of any kind. They spend their time partying, hooking up with unattached men, and pursuing demanding careers, assured that they should be “thankful” for their very specific kind of freedom. A freedom from the responsibility and limitations imposed by parenthood, and particularly motherhood. It is a kind of freedom that was almost unknown to our ancestors, but is increasingly the norm in the modern West.

Mackintosh, 31, does not have children. Nor do roughly 40% of her peers. Some of those women will go on to have children over the next decade or so, but many will not. This fate has not been assigned randomly by the state, as in Mackintosh’s novel, but is, instead, the result of much messier forms of social change — the effects of which have been accumulating over time.

Around 18% of women in England and Wales born in 1972 reached the end of their childbearing years not having had children, compared with only 10% of women born in 1945. Millennials are projected to continue the trend. As of 2019, the total fertility rate in England and Wales is at a historic low of 1.7, and the Covid-19 crisis may lower that still further. All in all, it is quite plausible that at least 1 in 4 people of my generation will not be having children.

Financial insecurity and rising property prices are often cited as reasons for this, and there is no doubt that millennials are not only worse off than their parents’ generation, but also acutely aware of it. I used to agree with the argument that, as one young writer put it, “[y]oung people still need to get onto the first rung on the housing ladder to get onto the wedding ladder and the kids ladder 
 and that pushes any dreams of 2.4 children well into the distance.” In other words: it’s the economy, stupid.

But I’m not so sure now that the numbers stack up. There is a near-perfect correlation between a nation’s GDP and its fertility rate: globally, poor people have more children, not fewer. The same holds true in this country, since even as the total fertility rate has declined, poorer Britons have continued to have more children on average than their wealthier counterparts, and tend to start their families younger too. Poverty does not preclude childbearing — in fact, it seems to do the opposite.

An income-rich, asset-poor millennial friend once insisted that she couldn’t possibly afford children; she later reconsidered, recognising that she could, but it would mean buying a house outside London, having fewer holidays, eating out less often — all in all, making sacrifices that she wasn’t prepared to make, at least not in her twenties. The issue isn’t how much money today’s young people actually have, but how they prioritise their spending.

The reality is that declining fertility is not a phenomenon affecting every section of society evenly. When we talk about falling rates of childbearing across the Western world, what we’re really talking about is falling rates of childbearing among graduates.

Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at Sheffield University, describes the sharp distinction:

“Society has split into two groups. One group, of women graduates, clustered particularly in London and the commuter belt, is having children very late and the rest are having them at much the same age as their mothers and their grandmothers did.”

This first group of highly educated people, both male and female, is also the group most likely not to have children at all. In contrast, working-class people are more likely to hold on to traditional family values that include a disapproval of voluntary childlessness. In our society, blue tickets are not picked by lottery, but they’re not exactly randomly selected either: there are strong demographic forces at play, with class being the most important one.

So why are graduates choosing not to have kids? Some environmental activists celebrate the decline in birth rates and so-called “BirthStrikers” reject parenthood in order not to further burden an already over-burdened planet. I do know twenty-somethings who are fervent enough in their political beliefs that they have signed anti-natalist pledges, but a vanishingly small number of people actually choose to have children, or not have children, based on such abstract concerns.

I simply don’t believe most of my peers who say that they’re choosing to be childless out of fear for the climate. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, for instance, have committed to having only two children in a display of environmentalist piety, but have made no commitment to reducing their air travel or the number of homes they own. Appealing to the health of the planet is a socially acceptable explanation for reduced childbearing, but not a candid one.

No, I see two plausible ways of explaining the rise of the elite blue tickets, neither of which involve climate change or financial insecurity.

The first possible explanation is linked to the fact that sometimes affluence reveals differences within populations that were always there, but used to be invisible. Variation in appetite, for instance, is indiscernible in an environment of food scarcity, since the greedy and the abstemious are equally limited in how much they can eat. It’s only in an affluent society like ours that the abundant availability of cheap calories allows such traits to surface, with some people — but only some people — becoming obese as a result.

Perhaps, like appetite, a longing for parenthood is a visceral thing and you either have it or you don’t. Perhaps in the past there was always some proportion of people who had no interest in childbearing, but had little choice in the matter, particularly if they were women.

We know that voluntary childlessness is linked to personality, which is highly heritable, so there might always be a chunk of people who, given the option, would prefer not to have children. And now, with contraception, and feminism, and the decline of religion, and all of the other factors that have turned our world upside down, that option is newly available to people with the education and means to choose their own path. “Not every woman goes gooey at the sight of a toddler taking their first step,” insists one young writer, “there are others who quite simply do not want kids. Ever.” And isn’t that their prerogative?

This personality-based explanation seems plausible enough, but I wonder if there may be an additional ideological explanation for why rising childlessness is affecting only one section of Western society — perhaps not coincidentally, the same section of society that has most fiercely embraced a liberal individualism that dominates in today’s universities.

Let’s be honest — children are hard work. They scream, they complain, they make a mess. They limit your leisure time, your sex life, your travel, and your socialising. In our economic system, children limit earning potential because they limit mobility and flexibility, especially for mothers (the gender pay gap is actually a maternity pay gap). All in all, kids limit freedom.

If you subscribe to an ideology that privileges freedom above all else, then why on earth would you want children? It is a sure-fire way to sabotage your beauty, your leisure time, and your ability to buy high-status consumables: the things that matter most according to an ideology that prizes immediate and visible success and enjoyment over everything else. Children do offer pleasures, but they are complicated, costly, and delayed. So if you are a liberal individualist and you don’t find within yourself a visceral longing for parenthood, then the solution is simple: opt out.

The most energetically liberal baby boomers succeeded in eroding the stigma associated with voluntary childlessness, thus granting greater social freedom to later generations who have been born into a world in which choosing to be childless is — for the first time ever — relatively normal. Hence the gradual dwindling of childbearing in the decades since the 1960s — from 10% childlessness, to 18%, to (maybe) 25% or more. This is a cumulative social change, not a sudden one.

People used to have children because of tradition, or religion, or social pressure, or just because they couldn’t access contraception. But, unlike their working-class peers, most of today’s graduates are not subject to these pressures any more and so for them the decision to try for children is based on only one question: do you like kids?

Looked at from this perspective, it’s no surprise that so many young graduates are choosing to be childless. It is a perfectly defensible decision in our ideological environment, and any costs will be paid down the track, or perhaps not at all, at least at the individual level.

Birth rates are difficult from a policy perspective, since they are simultaneously of profound national importance, and also profoundly personal. On the one hand, we have environmentalists urging us to have fewer children. On the other, economists warn of a looming demographic crisis if birth rates keep falling. At the centre of the drama are all of us, with our hotly contested bodies.

Will a generation of blue tickets change their minds, as Sophie Mackintosh’s protagonist does? Will they conclude that actually not being “bound to anyone or anything” is not the life they want? Some might, only to find themselves coming up hard against age-related infertility; others might be quite happy to live without children. It remains to be seen what our society might look like as voluntary childlessness is increasingly normalised — maybe even, one day, becoming the majority choice.

It’s quite possible that it might not matter. We could yet find a way of solving environmental and economic problems without fiddling with birth rates, and it may be that a population that spends less time on childrearing will have more time to spend on other valuable pursuits. But it’s worth remembering that speculative fiction — from The Handmaid’s Tale to Children of Men — is consistently gloomy about what happens to a society in which babies are in short supply.


Louise Perry is a freelance writer and campaigner against sexual violence.

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Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

The trouble with graduates not having children is that, to an extent, people who decline to have children remain children themselves. Having children does something to you, both hormonally and socially, that you couldn’t have predicted before you had them. It both attunes you to social change and makes you aware of the things that last. It makes you suspicious of grand theories and fix-all solutions, and less bothered about the abstract Meaning of Life. It makes you value security and practicality.

Couples I know who have chosen not to have children are clever, fun and interesting but in some way not grounded. And when society is mainly run by such people, it risks undervaluing a whole slew of unobtrusive virtues – duty, perseverance, kindness.

Of course it’s everybody’s right not to have children if they choose not to, but if you, as an organism, choose to opt out of the biological life cycle that you once would have taken part in whether you liked it or not, there are going to be costs and unforeseen consequences which have to be faced up to.

Small point: I should think very few people have a desperate longing to ‘have children’, in the abstract. It’s only when you have them that you realise that ‘children’ aren’t a funny sort of sub-species of humans, they are just humans, and yours!

Julia H
Julia H
3 years ago

You unfairly suggest that people who choose not to have children lack the virtues of duty, perseverance and kindness. May I remind you that there are a lot of feckless parents as well as absent parents whose main contribution to society seems to be filling our courts and prisons with individuals who are barely socialised. There is nothing intrinsically virtuous about having children and not all children are a benefit to society.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

not all children are a benefit to society.
are you to rid us of these nettlesome children? Very few kids are born sociopaths. Most get to be who they are honestly.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

You are of course right that there are all too many feckless and absent parents – those who, as in days of old, have children ‘by accident’ or, worse, as a result of perverse incentives. I did not mean to suggest that people who choose not to have children lack virtue – only that, in the aggregate, a society with few parents as leaders may have problems.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
3 years ago

….zigackly. Just look at the childless bunch who’ve been the leaders in UK/EU over the last decade or so !!

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

Children are society.

Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago

No. People are society, and children are a part of that, and an important part, but not the whole.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Yes, that’s the point. We don’t, or shouldn’t, talk about people being a benefit to society, as if the good of the people is something different than the good of society.

Increasingly, rather than remembering children are people, somehow they are imagined as a sort of luxury add on.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago

Children are the future, as a Simpsons song once reminded us.

Isabela Fairclough
Isabela Fairclough
3 years ago

Most insightful comment I have read on any topic for a long time. Thank you.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Having kids certainly makes one realize that everything is not about you.

Maighread G
Maighread G
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I think growing up the middle child of five made realise that everything was not about me.

Currant bun
Currant bun
3 years ago
Reply to  Maighread G

Same here. 4 of us and I never thought it was all about me

Riccardo Tomlinson
Riccardo Tomlinson
3 years ago

Those of us who are parents will sympathise with this view. I don’t think those who are voluntarily childless are any less worthy, but they do necessarily have less of a stake in the future, and that counts. Parents are more likely to stand up for themselves and their families. Women often become braver and stronger when they have children to fight for.

However, Louise Perry has discussed an important question here without getting to the bottom of it. I wonder if it is connected with a perceived lack of good men? That is men who would be seen as dad-material.

Many of these graduate women are high-earning and high-powered. You have to be a impressive man pass muster, truly. Perhaps there are just not enough men who make the grade.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
3 years ago

Well, the high earning, high powered women who reject all those sub-standard men will at least accumulate enough assets to pay for a good nursing home.

Peter Kriens
Peter Kriens
3 years ago

Why would a high grade man bother with such women? There are lots of younger, and likely much more fun, women that are not obsessed with being independent when you’re a high grade man. Feminism gave these high grade men enormous power, a power that most women used too have.

L H
L H
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Kriens

Hm your perspective may be lighthearted, but it does sound very cynical. People do form true relationships amd many men do look for intelligent and unselfish life partners, if they are marriage and family-minded. Young and dependant reads like a fantasy – the truth is people connect with people not ‘firm breasted’ stereotypes. I have often joked that men select for compliance above all else, but I’m not sure if that is the only thing they seek. Humour and intelligence and a will to co-operate for a common good seem to figure highly in the successful life partnerships I have seen.

Peter Kriens
Peter Kriens
3 years ago
Reply to  L H

You’re right, there are more qualities men look for. But men that are attractive to these ‘high powered’ women tend to have lots of choices. Women are overwhelmingly hypergamous and that means there are lots of high powered incel women and lots of low powered incel men; therefore a few high powered men have abundant choices. One of the unintended consequences of feminism.

Tobias Olds
Tobias Olds
3 years ago

I’m glad you raised the point I have been wondering would also factor into this phenomenon of particularly highly-educated, generally middle- to upper-class and generally liberal women being much more likely to be childless which Perry here doesn’t quite touch on – that the Hypergamous instincts you describe would mean that what it would take to satisfy such ladies means that they’re pool of suitable men shrinks in a way that it wouldn’t for the lower-class women.
On its own, a marginal increase in women being educated wouldn’t be too much of a significant pressure on society…
but when it’s half of society…
and by that half, slightly more women than men now graduating from uni….
and also arguably a society that is increasingly feminising and disenfranchising men (so that less would be seen as good husband material)…

with all those factors combined it does all just add in the end to a greater figure (like 25+ %).

It’s something that much of the more “red-pill” inclined sites (and also complementarian bloggers such as Suzanne Venker, who are red-pill lite in a more diet sense) have been touching on and writing about for quite a bit now.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Tobias Olds

I think this is a really interesting question. It’s been kind of approached only by wack-a-doodles, and I think it’s easy to see why. But it’s an interesting and real phenomena, and it deserves some serious consideration.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago

I agree Perry has raised a really important question but not got to the bottom of it. It’s quite a conundrum.

“a perceived lack of good men” -useful phrase -but from where does this ‘perception’ emanate, and is it really true? I suspect the class of ‘men’ is more or less the same as it has ever been relative to the culture. But the ‘perception’ of men has undoubtedly been shifted by our current culture (or at least by the chattering parts of it). In some quarters it is apparent there can be no such thing as a good man.

I wonder what an ‘impressive man’ is to these high earning, high powered women you speak of. Do they even know? Would they trouble themselves to find out?

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago

There is also another phenomenon, which is that men in marriages tend to grow to be more confident and impressive as they mature. Apparently, they don’t teach that at university.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago

Yay! Everybody loses.

jud.gou
jud.gou
3 years ago

Great reply…I am trying to persuade my 30 yrold that she will miss out tremendously in life if she chooses to be childless…a lonely old age awaits.

Lucy Browne
Lucy Browne
3 years ago
Reply to  jud.gou

Judith if you continue to push parenthood on your daughter and refuse to respect and accept her choices, you may in fact be the one who’s lonely in old age!

cmbiava
cmbiava
3 years ago

This reminds me of the old adage “adults don’t make babies, babies make adults.”

Maighread G
Maighread G
3 years ago
Reply to  cmbiava

Not always. Plenty of parents out there remain babies and plenty of childless people are mature and grounded.

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
3 years ago

Wonderful comment! Experience is the only tutor.

Lucy Browne
Lucy Browne
3 years ago

I’m afraid I find this to be patronising and insulting nonsense; the epitome of the ‘smug marrieds’ stereotype. ðƾℱ„ I suspect any of your childfree friends who read this or get a whiff of your patronising attitude toward them will no longer be your friends when they realise that you think them unkind and lacking in duty and perseverance, just because they haven’t produced offspring.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

That’s not what I said. Why does everything have to come down to this silly moral point-scoring between ‘smug marrieds’ and ‘smug childless’ – and if you think parents are smug, you should try the likes of Hannah Betts in The Times, always going on about the irresponsibility of reproducing yourself and the pathetic ‘co-dependency’ of stable couples. Live whatever way floats your boat. All I was saying is that a society where having kids is no longer the norm is going to have some problems it may not expect.

Currant bun
Currant bun
3 years ago

don’t worry – the world is not going to run out of babies. Quite the opposite

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

That isn’t a fair assessment of the writer’s comments at all -which I think were more generous and less patronising and insulting than you make out. It was a difficult but valid point to make and perhaps some latitude should be admitted for that. Those without children ought to be able to appreciate the inherent value of having and raising children even if their choice is not to have children themselves. It doesn’t make them second class citizens to acknowledge that. You are seeking divisiveness where there is no need for it.

Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
3 years ago

Finally a couple of women make it into this debate. I agree with you Caroline. In my 20s I was one of those “career women”. I had a brilliant time. Then in my 30s I thank God I had the good fortune to accidentally fall pregnant. Had I not had my son and now my two wonderful grandchildren what a sad, shrivelled little thing my life would have been! You are right that the childless have a tendency to remain infantilised themselves. Parenthood changes you. It allows you to give love and receive in a way nothing else does. And after all love is the most important thing we ever experience.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

Yes and thank you for sharing this. But I’m not talking about women only, but also, perhaps even more, about men. Women are often involuntarily childless and it is very cruel to heap them with moral opprobrium as well as the sadness they have to bear. As for the ‘infantilisation’ that comes with childlessness (or indeed with ignoring your children), even that has its upside. Human civilisation needs that prolongation of the childlike sense of curiosity, the hunger to learn, that gives us all the great discoveries. Many of the most creative people who ever lived have been childless or their children played a very small part in their lives. What worries me is when this becomes the norm, and you don’t have a groundswell of a biological ‘reality check’ among the majority.

N A
N A
3 years ago

Are childless woman actually unhappy though? The research I keep seeing linked is that long term single woman are by and large happy and satisfied with their lives. The happiest are those happily married with kids yes, but do are the unhappiest. The single childless woman tend to be happier than the median married with children woman even if they’re rarely the absolute happiest. That seems like a fairly good trade off to me.

The ones who are statistically better off married with children seem to be men.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  N A

I said ‘involuntarily childless’ women are unhappy, not childless women in general.

Maighread G
Maighread G
3 years ago

I have read that 80% of childless women are childless involuntarily. I don’t think that necessarily means that 80% of childless women are unhappy. Life is fully of disappointments for every living soul. We come to terms with disappointments and move on. Coming to terms with childlessness is a huge challenge. I am only at the start of that journey, but I’m not planning to give up or to lead what some commentator here called a ‘shrivelled’ life.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago
Reply to  N A

‘That seems like a fairly good trade off to me.’ Failing to sexually reproduce makes you a failure at life, biologically.

Currant bun
Currant bun
3 years ago
Reply to  N A

very happy, thanks for asking.

Maighread G
Maighread G
3 years ago

I don’t have children. But I think I’m quite grown up and I know plenty of parents who are total babies. It’s great that having children helped you to grow up, but it doesn’t have the same effect on everybody. And there are people like myself, and many other childless people that i know who have managed to grow up without becoming parents.
‘when society is mainly run by such people’ Is society run by the childless?

This is news to me.

Any by the way I have felt a desperate longing to have children. It hasn’t been fulfilled sadly for me. But despite that I managed to figure that children weren’t a subspecies of humans. In fact, I think I’ve always known that.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago

What is someone like myself (I am a man, married) who is unable to have children due to medical issues supposed to do then? Kill myself as socially useless?

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

Not at all – and I am sorry to hear that. As I wrote elsewhere, childless people make creative contributions out of proportion to their numbers and are necessary to civilisation. It’s only if, in the aggregate, society has such a high proportion of childless people that decisions are made in terms of the childless rather than families (and the future), that problems arise.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

The biggest fiction ever sold to women was the one about “having it all.” It’s not possible, and it’s not possible for men, either. Technically speaking, a woman can have it all but not at the same time. Life is full of tradeoffs and career vs family is one of them.

When the tale was told that “you can be just like the male CEO,” it left out the part where he’s working 80 hours a week, barely sees his kids, and spends little meaningful time with his wife. That hardly sounds like something to aspire to.

Nick M
Nick M
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Very well said.

L H
L H
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Same could easily be said of the experience of child rearing for women. There is only so much pleasure one can take in washing dishes three times a day, managing children’s extra curricular and ironing undies for a household. Motherhood s a grinding, repetitive, low status and largely thankless task where one must ‘be grateful’ for the opportunity to serve. To come out the other side with a degree of dignity and an intellect intact is quite an achievement. Added to that it can be very difficult to find a man who willingly agrees to fatherhood in good time and good grace. I don’t blame women for having second thoughts.

bsema
bsema
3 years ago
Reply to  L H

Who said women should be grateful for the opportunity to serve? And why on Earth should motherhood compromise anyone’s dignity or intellect? Your attitude reminds me of my mother who constantly told us she wished we’d never been born. Nice!

L H
L H
3 years ago
Reply to  bsema

Lol do you have kids? I am very happily married and have a terrific family. These wonderful old fashioned values that I personally love and uphold have always come at a cost. The cost women bear is often unrecognised and downplayed, and only really began to be even alluded to in the sixties. The day-to-day of motherhood is intellectually challenging because it is so isolating, repetitive and dull. There are other important disadvantages (or high risk of same) to a woman’s life trajectory that comes with motherhood. We need to address this. Simply delaying marriage in and of itself, or refusing to treat these concerns as real, is not the right approach.

bsema
bsema
3 years ago
Reply to  L H

Not got kids – the world doesn’t need my kids. I suggest we need to look at alternatives to the nuclear family; more mutually supportive living arrangements with childcare shared.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
3 years ago
Reply to  bsema

Feel free to do so and use your right of freedom of speech (at least in the US, at least for now) to try to convince others to join you. Leave me out of it however and my money for that matter…

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
3 years ago
Reply to  L H

This is a very dismal and cynical portrayal of motherhood -in fact, it doesn’t sound at all authentic -more like resentful feminist propaganda, wholly absent of love.

Then I read your further response and it seems completely at odds with your initial statement and makes me feel a lot better!

I do tend to agree with you that motherhood is severely undervalued -though often by women themselves- fatherhood is also undervalued. I wonder what our culture has done to these key relationships. Like the writer of this piece I think it links to academic ‘education’ which seems somehow to separate itself off from real life and develop intellectual theories that are so often reactionary and limited in their application. Feminism stirred up such a wave of anger and resentment (some of it quite justified as a response to chauvinism). Feminism never really seems to stand up for the centrality and importance of motherhood to our culture. I think the overall impact has been thoroughly demoralising for both genders. It implies that men and women must be deeply suspicious of each other and at war -as if there can be no good joint enterprise. A lot of people, the opinion writers, have been through this system and come out the other end completely jaded and corrupted. It’s been happening for decades now, driven by commercial industry (media and manufacturing) who make quite a profit from the division.

Angela Sullivan
Angela Sullivan
3 years ago

Early feminism was about women’s right to do something OTHER than have children.
It was about enabling women to have an alternative to a life of baby production. To get an education, to work, to be independent and not beholden to men, and to have legal rights to own property and enter into contracts.
Now women have those things, feminism is coming full circle, and starting to fight for women not to lose those hard won gains if they have children.
But that is not without conflict, because early feminism was all about rejecting a straitjacket which said motherhood was all women could or should do. A dismissive attitude towards motherhood is embedded in feminist traditions.
These days women are not generally deemed to be chattels and dependents of their menfolk. Until they have children. Producing a child forces many woman to choose between accepting a pre-feminist social status, or abandoning said child to a nursery while she continues her career.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  L H

Funny, all the women in my family came out of motherhood with their dignity and intellect intact.
It looks like the problem might be worth you.

Karen Lindquist
Karen Lindquist
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

So many men showing up to talk about what it’s like to be a mother and how it feels. It looks like men are particularly threatened by the idea that a lot of women don’t want kids or find being a mother unfulfilling in some ways.

Currant bun
Currant bun
3 years ago

Agree with you – people can’t cope with the idea that someone just doesn’t want to breed. I just never wanted them. It could not even be described as a decision, it was never on the cards. Ironic that I found this topic in the ‘Groupthink’ category!!

Mark
Mark
3 years ago
Reply to  L H

The only reason we exist is procreate.
What other reason is there for our existence.

Maighread G
Maighread G
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark

We are not cattle, We are human. It’s sad that you can see no other reason to your existence.

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 years ago
Reply to  Maighread G

Well ,what is it then, this reason for your existence?

Maighread G
Maighread G
3 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

I love. I serve. I enjoy books and books. I savour what the world has to offer.

Currant bun
Currant bun
3 years ago
Reply to  Maighread G

There does not have to be a ‘reason’ to exist – that is a very human- centric idea. You just do exist and that’s it.

Bill
Bill
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Hardly any women (or men) have a realistic chance at becoming a CEO and most of them are well aware of that. Are most jobs so demanding that a woman couldn’t have both a career and a family?

Trevor Q
Trevor Q
3 years ago

I am a solicitor specialising in elderly clients. It is noteworthy that there is a growing number of people who are losing the ability to look after themselves without having support from a family. The consequences are not usually very good.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
3 years ago
Reply to  Trevor Q

The consequences of losing the ability to look after yourself are never very good, and in the very end, equally as bad for us all.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Jake Prior

But far worse if it has to be left to a stranger.

Currant bun
Currant bun
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

So my parents had 4 kids. 3 of them are in Australia. Not much ‘looking after’ being done by them.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Trevor Q

I’ve seen a few instances of people who came to where they had to put affairs in order, anticipating an illness and decline, and struggled to find someone to take on legal and other advocacy roles that are usually managed by family.

The first time I saw this it was through a friend of mine, who was approached by an elderly lady she had worked with who had been recently told she was dying and had probably a year or two to live, that much of that was likely to be in care, and that she would be unable to manage her own affairs. She asked my friend to take charge of some of the elements of dealing with her banking and the care facility, making medical decisions, and managing her estate. My friend agreed to this and was happy to do so, but it was a huge job as anyone who has cared for an elderly loved one in such circumstances knows. It was lucky she found someone who was willing to be diligent and involved and I am sure many people in that situation don’t.

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
3 years ago
Reply to  Trevor Q

I get your point. But that seems an unduly depressing reason to have on the ‘plus’ side of a decision to procreate.

Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
3 years ago

There will be a Darwinian effect, since children will be more likely to be born to those who like children, but not to those who don’t. It does not matter whether the effect is due to some genetic predisposition or to upbringing, or a combination of these – the desire for children will be magnified over successive generations, whilst the desire for childlessness won’t.

It appears to be graduates who least desire children. Is their antipathy to having children a bad thing? Looking at the current state of universities, and more importantly the mental state of their inmates, perhaps not. Do we really need lots of ghastly, censorious apparatchiks who try to control every facet of life in accordance with their insane ideologies? Do we want hoards of people indoctrinated in the belief that mathematics and the sciences are simply the product of white supremacy? Graduates, do us all a favour, and die out.

A Woodward
A Woodward
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

Watch our for reasoning fallacies in this. While you could say that most people who don’t have children didn’t want them anyway, you can’t say that most people who don’t want children don’t have them. I’m afraid there are many, many people who have children regardless of whether they wanted them objectively. This tends to affect the more unfortunate part of society, but it does provide a vector for those ‘I don’t really like kids’ traits to get passed on. Witness the surprising number of addicts who produce offspring which they are ill equipped to pay for or look after.

Tobias Olds
Tobias Olds
3 years ago
Reply to  A Woodward

And likewise it’s not necessarily the case that all those who don’t have kids are that they don’t want them… it’s a mix of cultural conditions and messages that mean they don’t receive the best wisdom on finding a suitable life partner and eventually the opportunity will pass them.

Joff Brown
Joff Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

You do realise that the vast, VAST majority of students are not “ghastly, censorious apparatchiks who try to control every facet of life in accordance with their insane ideologies” don’t you? They’re just ordinary kids trying to get on in life.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Joff Brown

So then, the vast majority are no more cowering sheep who sit quietly while the vocal mob sets terms for everyone? That may well be true, but it does not mitigate those censorious apparatchiks who exist and whose existence is catalogued almost daily.

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

From my experience, they’re sitting quietly because they’re too busy working to care. The vocal mob are the underemployed and unemployed who didn’t study engineering, medicine or accounting…

Joff Brown
Joff Brown
3 years ago

Exactly, Nicholas. Alex, most of them just can’t be bothered with this nonsense.

dikkitikka
dikkitikka
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

Or they will be born to those who are expected to have children whether they like them oer not.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

That makes no sense in light of the fact that childlessness is increasing. The childless are all born of people that liked to have children – in as much as actually having children demonstrates that preference. The increased incidence of childlessness from people – obviously – born from parents that had children clearly demonstrates society can evolve in a way that tends to increase childlessness more than evolutionary impulses drive child bearing.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Jake Prior

What a good observation. I think the OP just meant cultural norms get passed on to others who one associates with. The real Darwinian business of random mutations and survival of the fittest takes generations … unless I’ve completely misunderstood this evolution malarkey.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

There are people who expect a demographic boom after a collapse precisely for that reason. Of course the effect is also possibly dysgenic.

We might lose the people who think mathematics is white supremacy but we might lose the mathematicans too.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago

The greatest calamity to befall western societies, and especially working class and post-industrial communities, is not voluntary childlessness but the rise of female-headed households, based on transient relationships and often with children from different fathers. This creates instability at every level, including crime, addiction, and violent behaviour (including domestic violence). It affects educational outcomes, traps people in poverty and harms women, children and men.

Instability, family breakdown and insecurity are also fuelling the rise of extremist and hate-based movements. Q-Anon’s conspiracy theories of an ‘international paedophole elite’ is the product of a society where women are left to bring up children on their own without protection and support. Significantly, Q-Anon’s following seems to be mainly working-class women raising children on their own who are vulnerable to this type of propaganda because of their justified anxieties and sense of vulnerability.

Feminist opposition to ‘patriarchy’, the idea of marriage as ‘bourgeois’ and the lack of fiscal incentives for couples to stay together all have a lot to answer for.

I speak as a gay man who has been blessed with the opportunity to marry his life partner. It is heterosexual marriage that now needs our support.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I think there is some truth to that, certainly it’s true that instability in families has serious social consequences and we can see that written out in the statistical outcomes.

Of course one of the conservative arguments around same sex marriage was that it was important to maintain an institution that is overtly attached to and shaped in light of procreative potential, and maintained that connection in people’s minds, and therefor that same-sex relationships are something different. I’d be interested to know, in light of your own experience, whether that seems plausible to you or just crazy? If you feel that’s too personal, no need to answer!

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago

A society in which babies are in short supply is going to be superseded by one in which they aren’t. Nature abhors a vacuum/demographics is destiny…call it what you will, a civilisation without babies is literally dying out. If this is a result of its values, then perhaps it should.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

A declining birth rate in the UK will necessitate higher immigration from countries with much higher birth rates than ours. I hope people are willing to deal with the consequences of this, both positive and bad.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

No, it won’t. Automation.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

In about 100 years sure.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

You seem to be living in 1920.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Not really, just looking at the operational capabilities of the machinery around now and a basic knowledge of human nature.

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

What a great time to have lived – if you were 20 in 1920 you would see more change and excitement than any past or likely future generation.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Automation is not magic nor is it a panacea. It provides benefits to mankind; it does not replace it.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

The UK is over-populated as it is. We do not need more immigration.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You might want to tell that to the people who will encourage it to prevent a decline in those propping up the welfare state.

Martin Davis
Martin Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

At present immigration to balance the ‘demographic deficit’ does seem to be the direction of travel. But beware of determinism. Japan seems to be handling this demographic transition without significant immigration. Besides, with the exception of Sub-Sahara Africa, all countries are at or below replacement rate now. This situation will have to be faced at some point. And demographic decline is a good thing.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

Economically, the Industrial Age displaced by the Virtual, the trendline has reversed.

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

Japan has still had to open up to more foreign labor (though not permanent immigration; Japanese citizenship laws are arcane and it is virtually impossible to become a citizen – there have been Korean and Chinese families – who go by Japanese names – who have lived in Japan for generations now without actually gaining citizenship).

But Japan has a different strategy than mass immigration – mass offshore investment in countries with younger labor pools which they can use to pad their “national retirement”. China’s OBOR is essentially the same thing on ten times the scale – integrate all of South Asia and Africa into their economic sphere to generate wealth for the motherland, without bringing all of those pesky people to their country.

Alex S
Alex S
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

It depends on what you mean with “handling”. Working until you are 80, lack of care homes or family to take care of you, old people committing crimes to stay in prisons rather than out in the free…if this is the best way to handle the demographic transition that awaits most nations on earth this century, then we better be prepared for it.

However, mass immigration to Western societies has merely delayed this transition, not avoided it. So we will be getting the worst of both worlds – a greying population with all the issues that it brings, as well as the destabilizing effects mass immigrations. In the long run, Japan is probably winning out.

A great book on this topic, by an author that I think has contributed at UnHerd: The Human Tide by Paul Morland.

As there were issues with this transition, there were issues with the last one, when industrialization in Britain caused unprecedented population explosions. Then, Britain was leading the way demographically and other nations followed this pattern. Now, Japan is leading the way and other nations follow that pattern. Evidently, those issues were handled in some way back then; at least we are here today.

Perhaps there is time and place for a more silent and less populated world, one of ‘slowgress’ instead of progress. Once there, maybe people will have more kids again; and so, we are full circle. I’m not a historian, clearly, but it’s the future so I’m allowed to guess!

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

Not quite correct: quite a few countries have a fertility rate that is enough to ensure an increasing population: a few in South America, a few in Asia, and many of the Pacific island nations (not that these last are big enough to make a big difference to the world’s population.

Japan is more open than it used to be, at least if the number of foreigners in Tokyo is any indication.

dikkitikka
dikkitikka
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Well the Governments of the 50s and 60s should have weaned themselves off of the spending power of the Baby Boomers. Ordinary working class folks such as my parents did what the Government said, and had two children, no more. To keep current levels of consumption up, they should have had about 4.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

That’s just kicking the can down the road. Actually it’s kicking a can that gets bigger as you kick it down the road down the road.

dikkitikka
dikkitikka
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

My parents had two children because the Governments in the 50s and 60s were very keen for people to have fewer children. There should have been a steady slight decrease in population after the Baby Boom. Unfortunately, the Economy became hooked on “Growth”, so now we need to import workers/consumers, ultimately (I believe) to our detriment.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  dikkitikka

The economy was already hooked on growth, it’s an outcome of the banking system and the way we deal with money. Though I suspect the longer we go without making changes at that level, the more difficult it will be.

Simon
Simon
3 years ago

One thing I remember reading on the BBC a while back was that this is not just a Western phenomenon. All over the world, the more educated women get, the fewer children they have as they decide they want a career and to do and see more in life, at least before having children.

I do think we need to be honest as some have mentioned below that due to biological factors, you will have a far harder time rising up the career ladder if you are a woman who chooses to have children. Even if you are able to work full time after having children and having grandparents, nannies etc looking after them, there are still consequences down the line. Having told women for the last few decades that they don’t need to make any compromises, when in fact, they often have to, is setting many up for disappointment and resentment.

Isabella Woods
Isabella Woods
3 years ago

You make some great points but miss two major things I think, Louise: 1) many of us (I’m 42) have yet to meet the right man and would like to marry before having children (who I adore btw) ie childlessness often isn’t voluntary at all and 2) the LGBTQI community was illegal till only recently so men one might have married are now enabled to marry each other instead of being expected to marry women. This means we graduate women have even fewer to choose from than previously ““ and I think there are more women than men on the planet too so having babies is harder then ever.

ralph bell
ralph bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Isabella Woods

There is no such thing a s the perfect husband/father/wife or mother. U just need to jump in and do your best like the many before u. If ur priority is children stop putting up barriers! Good Luck and don’t waste time….,

James Suarez
James Suarez
3 years ago
Reply to  ralph bell

I agree. I think people have been too heavily influenced by popular culture, and the idea that “Mr Right” is just around the corner. Every successful marriage I’ve witnessed is a couple who know they want a family and are willing to support each other and compromise where necessary. Marriages are work not ‘fate’.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 years ago
Reply to  James Suarez

Yes – the mathematical odds against meeting a soulmate are immense.

Randall Clawson
Randall Clawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Isabella Woods

Gay men haven’t been marrying women to fit in for decades. You have fewer men to choose from because you attained a status that places perfectly good potential mates outside of your dating standards.

Bob Honda
Bob Honda
3 years ago

The article avoids something painfully obvious: fertility is inversely correlated with women’s freedom, liberation and economic independence. Who have the most children? The poor and those who live in societies where women have less rights. You would think fertility would be sky-high in countries like the Scandinavian ones, where women are extremely free both economically and culturally AND there are great, almost free child care options. Yet fertility here is among the lowest in the world!

To be blunt, liberating women (which I think is a good thing by the way!) has the side effect of women having less kids. When you think about it, it’s painfully obvious that getting a degree, a career and dazzling social life requires time and effort in precisely the window of opportunity where women are the most fertile. If you also start later, you will on average have less kids.

So there is no easy “solution” to this. Women’s liberation = fundamentally a good thing for the individual, but also = lower fertility for the larger society.

Personally, if you disregard the fact that we need young people to take care of the old, i don’t think it matters that birth rates are stable or declining. In most places of the world there is overpopulation anyway, exponential growth in population is surely not a goal in itself

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

15 years ago there was a theory starting to gain popularity that while there had seemed to be a perfect downward correlation between birthrates and a country’s level of development, there was a J-curve emerging – birth rates bottomed out at around HDI 91-92, and then curved towards replacement level at 100. It was noted that Scandinavian and Canadian birthrates were trending upwards at that time.

Then, in the 2010s, that upward trend collapsed. So much for that theory.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
3 years ago

Internet dating came along and destroyed the chances of about 80% of men to get together with a woman more than half his sexual market value. Most men like sexual variety, so, with the ease of access internet dating provides, the top few % of men will mate with a very large proportion of women, and those women then think they can access the top few percent of men for a relationship when they decide they want commitment, and give up on the vast majority of average guys, however average they might be themselves. When they decide they’re ready for commitment, they find they can no longer attract these men and that they were probably not interested in commitment anyway. I was sceptical about this theory until I lived with one of these guys, it was truly something to behold.

N A
N A
3 years ago

Jake raises a good point but I’d also note that 2010s was when the economy collapsed and largely never recovered. I know a lot of committed couples who would like kids but their financial situation makes it extremely difficult. If we made it economically viable to have kids again then that trend might reassert itself.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

“Women’s liberation = fundamentally a good thing . .”
1 in 5 women suffer from mental health problems, this figure is rising all the time according to the Mental Health Foundation, and 1 in 10 children suffer, a significant increase on 30 years ago. Male suicides are shockingly high.
Where is the factual evidence that women’s liberation is a fundamentally good thing for society ?

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Correlation =/= Causation

These increases in “mental health problems” are an increase in diagnoses, due to training a much larger number of mental health professionals over the past several decades and the DSM proceeding to medicalize every trivial quirk of human existence into some sort of pathology.

Male suicides in Anglo countries have risen higher over the past 15 years – mainly due to economic reasons, but still remain far lower than a lot of the world. Globally, suicide rates for both sexes have been dropping steadily since 1995.

None of this makes a case for or against women’s lib, nor do I think it’s been one hundred percent positive. I’m just not sure that the reasons you give make the case for or against it.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Fair enough.

Bob Honda
Bob Honda
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

So you think women are happier when they are essentially poor house slaves for men with no freedom? a rather controversial view I would say in this day and age 🙂

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

So you think that women are happier when they are essentially economic slaves for employers who just want their labour? A rather dreary and predictable view I would say in this day and age 🙁

When did women get so convinced that “omg jobz no kidz no hubby” was empowering? It’s sad.

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

The difference being that changing employers and careers is a lot easier than changing husbands has been traditionally, and if your boss abuses you it’s easier to walk out and sue his sorry rear.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

For goodness sake a husband is there to share your life, have children and create a family with. Comparing a husband to an employer is just nonsense.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

Your viewpoint is typical feminist propaganda, it is sad that you have accepted their distorted version of history. All I can suggest is you read some fact based history books and avoid received opinions and ideology.
What I think is that women and men are generally neither happier or less happy than they ever were and that women’s so-called liberation has created a new set of social and health problems.
Feminism is as false an ideology as Marxism and seems to make young women angry and miserable, for nothing, for something that’s not real.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

I agree re feminist ideology. It’s uninformed, polemical,… specious. But women do have a problem unique in species history: motherhood in the old sense is not available to them as a sufficient raison d’etre. Their reproductive equipment can no longer serve by itself. Equally, barnyard hedonism is a dead-end. We have to address this problem; but, in the present state of culture there’s no hope.

And, re Marxism (marxism): it is the only way forward. But, like the above, i.e., in little or in large, there seems no hope.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

Re your last paragraph, God forbid.
The absence of hope is utter nihilism and deadly, don’t go there.

L H
L H
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

Well said. The idealism is important for the transmission of family culture down the generations, but a woman’s high falutin’ ideas can sure get ground down after a few years or ten of old fashioned, repetitive service in the home. In many important ways, marriage and motherhood has not changed a jot for many years. The physical shocks that may come with birth, the financial dependence on a man who now feels entitled to treat his home akin to a hotel service… are these things really so different now for the broad sweep of women raising their children in the context of an intact nuclear family in the modern West?
The only difference for modern women is that many were raised in their youth to expect to earn respect by excelling in studies or sport, and were raised to believe that ‘girls can do anything’. At the end of the day though women are still doing all the washing up. Down to earth with a bump.

Randall Clawson
Randall Clawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Honda

I think the point here is that women’s liberation is not an inherently good thing, unless freedom is your only standard for happiness.

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago

Speculative fiction is consistently gloomy about any sort of change. It’s what it does. It imagines things being different, then imagines that it would be terrible. And with good reason – utopias are really dull to read about. Add to that that our stupid primate brains are hardwired to think that “more babies = GOOD”, and I don’t place much stock in the predictive powers of sci-fi writers.

To be honest, I suspect that civilisation will collapse long before falling birthrates start being a problem, and then we’ll all be back to breeding like rabbits again and the nags will finally be happy. But even aside from that, I can’t help but wince at doomsayers who predict dire fates because if we don’t start popping out more babies the human population might soon not be the largest one it’s ever been in the history of the planet anymore.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

You should try both John Wyndham and John Christopher.

Alex S
Alex S
3 years ago

Yes, it’s worth reminding ourselves that while falling birth rates are probably somewhat of an historical anomaly (at least in modern times, I am not sure how far back detailed records that allow for such calculations stretch – a few hundred years?), so are our tremendously large populations of the last 100+ years.

Julian Hartley
Julian Hartley
3 years ago

I’m confused. Falling birthrates are already a problem, aren’t they? Japan’s geriatric demographics have caused economic stagnation and many new kinds of isolation, hopelessness and escapism. And whether or not you think those things are present yet in the West, has not our falling birth rate already begun to create difficulties with paying pensions?

Virgil Tracy
Virgil Tracy
3 years ago
Reply to  Julian Hartley

If you visit you may find it to be superior in terms of quality of life, if i could speak Japanese I would move there.

Julian Hartley
Julian Hartley
3 years ago
Reply to  Virgil Tracy

I’ve visited twice! But it is possible for a place to be wonderful in many ways and still have skeletons in its closet. In Japan’s case, the skeletons in the closet are the countless people, old and young, who rarely if ever leave the house, and to whom human company has become alien.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

Not mentioned here, but there’s another, no doubt selfish, reason why people have children – to look after them in old age. Such care cannot be assured of course, but the alternative – being ‘cared for’ by the state – doesn’t greatly appeal.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

I think probably the evolutionary effect is the most important, how young graduate women rationalise their rejection of motherhood is pretty irrelevant biologically. What matters is is everything in place ? A fertile, healthy female and male + their ability to be self sacrificing enough to nurture a human baby through to adulthood.

Despite what the article says having children was never easy, many women and children died, many who wanted children could’nt have them, ie, biology (and God perhaps) rules.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Evolutionary biology only extends to the first part, the cheerleader mates with the class rich guy. Selflessness and nurture are another level.

Anna Clare Bryson
Anna Clare Bryson
3 years ago

Interesting piece but it’s very very simplistic about the historical changes and modern pressures or lack of them. For example, it is true that in the past people – especially women – had much less choice about becoming parents, but a) more affluent women had servants to do much of the drudge and-or restricting work of parenthood and b) for everyone else, the rather “automatic” (barring health problems) character of parenthood had paradoxical effects compared to the contemporary situation. Obviously most parents cared about their children (though there were also a lot of abandoned children), but there was much less psychological pressure surrounding the whole thing… Today in the west we have a strange development in which as people have fewer or no children, “expertise” and anxiety over child rearing have ballooned. Fewer children mean more investment in the individual child, emotional and material, delegation of child-rearing is looked on with some disapproval, whole schools of psychology hold parents responsible for everything that could go wrong in the child’s life or mind, and child-centered ideas of upbringing make the whole prospect seem hugely more terrifying.
But even more important are changing gender relationships. Modern demographers have for some time been criticising approaches to natality that focus purely on women and their decisions as if these were not strongly affected by the decisions and attitudes of men. In my generation of university educated women (I’m sixty), I know only one woman who very definitely never wanted to have children – and among the several childless women in my circle the primary reason for not having children was not finding a suitable partner (either no serious partner at all, or no partner ready to have children). This sort of issue, and there are many more, means that we are not quite dealing with a pure preference choice for childlessness among young educated women.
Oddly enough, the most dramatic declines in natality in Western nations have not happened, or been so sustained, in the most socially “advanced” states. Italy, and where I live – the CR like some other CE European states, are especially badly affected. Meanwhile in the Nordic states, there has been a degree of recovery… The most persuasive theory is that the worst hit are “in the middle” states with modern economies and educational systems but still quite traditional cultures when it comes to childrearing and the domestic division of Labour. This puts so much pressure on young women – who have so much more to lose than men, from whom they will not be able to expect much support – that without necessarily embracing any ideological point of view, they simply go on strike as far as having children is concerned.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

Science analysis misses the point. A healthy society produces generally optimal outcomes for human happiness. The nucleus of a healthy society is the family; and it can only develop in a healthy culture. Sadly ours is moribund. The “blue ticket” people are ironic nuns.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

I agree with you to some extent, but surely it’s the “ironic nuns” who are moribund, and is’nt that biology (including neurobiology) ensuring such people do not reproduce because the modern feminist attitude to life is essentially me, me, me, and not conducive to motherhood ?

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

By “culture” I intended both the biochemical and the spiritual. Low crit and High crit. But, especially, we’ve lost our cultural heritage, Greco-Judaic, our parentage, that gave identity, meaning and destiny to our lives. The ability to read with understanding the Iliad, Genesis, …Shakespeare, Bach, Yeats, Geoffrey Hill, is lost. Our children are no longer taught to read and comprehend symbolic language. So the ultimate questions, which Positivism (science) declares “non-sense”, can’t be addressed. Positivism and the will-to-power (capitalism) have erased the noumenal, Meaning (God). Gordon Gekko reigns: the guy who dies with the most toys wins.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

I am being a bit flippant here but surely these are precisely the people we do not want reproducing. Imagine a monstrous regiment of millenials, GINOs*, many gendered, shrieking their pieties from behind a barricade of bureaucracy, “represive tolerance” and, of course, Elf and Safety. Then imagine their kids! On the plus side all 5 of my offspring claim to want kids but they are pretty steady and thoughtful – at least compared to me. * Graduate In Name Only

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

All 5 of your offspring are so much better than the people who you’d prefer didn’t reproduce.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Read my post again… “i am being a bit flippant here” is the clue. Just because the parent is a woke snowflake eco-loon in no way condemns the child to follow, but we need to imagine this for the humor in the comment to work. We could also imagine my kids turning out to be anti free speech, pro closed society, no such thing as women moonbat types. Thankfully its not happened yet, but that does not guarantee it will never happen!

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
3 years ago

I wonder how much of the need to have children (or even to be married) in the past, was not so much a matter of choice, but a matter of survival. Children meant security in older age; at least from those that survived into adulthood. It no doubt plays an important role in poorer countries today. Also how much of the so-called choice is made as freely as we think? I’ve heard of many tales where (mainly) women who were quite agnostic about children, found themselves getting broody when their friends and family started to have off spring. How much of our motives lie deep in our unconscious all along?

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Huntley

That’s a big part of it. I wonder to what degree social security is to blame. If you have to rely on your kids for retirement…

cfreeman84
cfreeman84
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Huntley

Having children in the recent and distant past was much more to do with quenching sexual desire than worrying about future consequences. Contraception was rare and abortions effectively non-existent. As for marriage – this was a cultural / religious norm which you just did; there would have been very few examples of people not doing this. Remember that our ancestors world was very small.

Mark Gilmour
Mark Gilmour
3 years ago

The problem is less that some women choose to forgo motherhood and more that couples who do want children often stop at two even if they are inclined to have more. I don’t have any data to hand but in the past larger families would have offset the childless but in the back 9 of my 30s I have no peers with more than two children and many who are childless.

You have addressed most of the reasons for this. The middle class couple in the intro to Mike Judge’s Idiocracy come to mind. There is never a shortage of reasons not to have another child.

The problem for upper middle class women is twofold; firstly the time at which they are required to invest most heavily in their education and careers directly coincides with their most fertile years. Realistically if you are waiting until you “make it” to have children you are likely already well into your 30s before you even start.

Then there is the problem I observe more frequently than women who are childless by choice which is those who aren’t. Many career successful women struggle to find a partner. There is some literature which supports the hypothesis that women mate across and up social hierarchy whereas men are more likely to mate across and down. This obviously limits the pool of potential mates for more successful women.

alisonwren3
alisonwren3
3 years ago

A rising population only matters economically which is why we’ve all been told immigration is great for the U.K. we cannot produce enough food for our population and of course a lower world population will be great for the other living things we share the planet with. So I’m all in favour of fewer babies although I would have hated not to have had mine!

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago

There’s something unspoken here, too: competition.

When someone in the middle class says that having children is too costly, it’s not just their own convenience they’re talking about – it’s the fact that they don’t want to end up raising their children to be downwardly mobile and in a lower social class than them. Their child must go to the best private schools, have tutors and activities, and get into Stanford. Just wearing hand me downs, going to public school, taking road trips to the lake in the summer and attending a state college isn’t good enough.

This also becomes clear when you talk to east Asians about having children – it’s all about having the resources to push them as far as they can rise. This reaches absurd proportions in Hong Kong and China’s Tier One cities, where celebrity test prep tutors become millionaires, there are pre-school “Early MBA” programs, and my five year old son would be considered unsuited for a good private school because he can’t read yet.

This happens to a lesser degree in the US and Europe, but it is present – especially among our urban middle and upper classes.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
3 years ago

Can confirm. Chinese kids where I lived in China were RIDICULOUSLY prepped for further education by their power-businessman parents – who despite being richer than 99% of their countrymen (they could afford to pay the one-child policy fines four times over, and could pay for expensive foreign English tutors) they still somehow “didn’t have enough for more children”…. And this was only in a third tier city!!

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

Yup.

Growing up in the working to middle class in a small town in the midwest, I had no idea about this sort of thing – but since coming back to the US, I’ve discovered it’s pretty common among the urban upper classes here and has long been so. The world of preparatory boarding schools, selective kindergartens, private tutors… this was something utterly unknown to this South Dakotan until I was well into adulthood. Working in banking and meeting families of upper class VCs, PE barons, Harvard Med School trained physicians and the like… they have very similar attitudes towards child rearing and status as urban Chinese. What’s interesting about the Chinese, though, is that this permeates far further down the status hierarchy in their country than it does in ours.

(Among Chinese, status climbing IS everything. Among Americans, it’s a dirty word. On the Left they don’t want to admit to their own ambitions, yet talk ceaselessly about social mobility for the disadvantaged – as if we could all be in the top 20%! On the Right, there seems to be an attitude increasingly that one should not want to status climb, that it’s morally corrosive and it’s better to stay put and do well in one’s own town and class – become a slighly more well-to-do blue collar tradesman or the like – which is encouraged by the elites of the right who don’t like the competition created by our “meritocracy”.

Whereas, in East Asia, the old Chinese saying goes – “you win, you’re the emperor; you lose, you’re a bandit”. You climb that greasy pole, and if you’re not on track by 30 at the latest, you give up and tend your garden. This isn’t just a mainland Chinese thing – it permeates all of NE Asia to a great degree.)

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Not such a bad philosophy really – tending your garden as the default option I mean.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

I’m not sure that competition is the main factor is the middle class traits you describe. Sometimes it is just wanting your kids to reach thier potential. Even if they don’t, that does not mean they will be socially immobile or move to a lower social class. (I write as someone whose children wore hand-me-downs, had holidays in a borrowed beach apartment in summer and went to redbrick universities. They got scholarships to a private school (a public school here in England!) and are still middle class.

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Oh yes, of course. But it is a factor for many who are trying to “make it” in very status-conscious environments.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Not always, but I think it is increasingly the case. You see it more in the US than the UK. Particularly among the professional classes, rather than the middle classes as a whole.

Mic Mac
Mic Mac
3 years ago

Great writing.

My theory is that it has to do with the commoditization of higher education.

Every one goes to university/college now. Whether they are qualified or not. It is a major industry now, these youth warehousing organizations have expanded massively.

Employers have to tick the box when they hire, even for previously menial work. They ask the job candidates, do you have a degree?

The better jobs, well to even get the first interview, you have to make sure that the next HR checklist box can be ticked, you need a graduate or professional degree.

Then by the time you get that done, you have barely gotten a toehold in the labour market. You need some experience on your resume.

Then you figure that you need a few years to pay off the school debts or save for the down payment on a roof and wheels.

When you finally come up for air to decide what is next in life, you are likely near or past 30 and life is now pretty busy. You barely even have time to consider it.

Kids? Time for kids, time for anything?

Maybe Covid will slow us down, give us time to think about what is truly important to us.

Alex Moran
Alex Moran
3 years ago

Women can do whatever they want and when they do, it’s no one else’s business but theirs. If people are so terrified that women having fewer/no kids will be the end of the UK, then maybe more voters should support better statutory maternity pay, equal pay, free childcare etc. Make conditions better for women to want to have kids and then maybe more would choose to have them. Society has to change NOT women.

elimtung
elimtung
3 years ago

If raising the children is a work, it should be paid. Nobody should be expected to work for free or to be called “lazy” if they don’t want to provide unpaid reproductive labor. If government wants women to have more children, they should pay them for doing the work of taking care of children. Women were exploited before because they didn’t have a choice in the matter. Now women can choose and just like men they prefer to work for money instead of doing unpaid work.

dikkitikka
dikkitikka
3 years ago

No mention of BAME groups who do have larger families even if relatively successful?

Veronica Lowe
Veronica Lowe
3 years ago

‘Who’d bother…..?’ Does anyone really think the continuation of the human race can rely on the altruistic wish to produce children? We have as a society separated copulation from procreation. We haven’t yet come to terms with the social results of not replacing ourselves. It is to be hoped that those who are anti reproduction make sure they don’t need care or pensions when they have wound down the pleasure seeking and globe trotting. And waiting till late 30s or 40s to be ‘ready’ is unfair on the children who will never know grandparents. However young and active one feels, coping with teenage years when you are nearly 60 can’t be ideal.

Alex S
Alex S
3 years ago
Reply to  Veronica Lowe

” We have as a society separated copulation from procreation.”

While that wasn’t easy to do in the good old days, the unwanted pregnancies that resulted were often solved through a variety of not so nice means: abortion, infanticide (yes, after birth), abstention, sterilization.

Or, raising an unwanted child.

If the separation of copulation from procreation can have us avoid those nasty choices listed above…it’s probably a good thing.

Monty Henderson
Monty Henderson
3 years ago

The correlation of lower birth rates to higher income holds pretty much across all societies not just in the west.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

Those that do have children farm them out to be looked after so that they can go to work. At the other end of life children no longer want to look after their aging parents. This is made more difficult because the NHS has an unnatural obsession with a long life and the result is a miserable end of life for many, with conditions that it is impossible to look after at home. We have increasing state dependency to take over family activity just to spend more hours at work, something most people don’t seem to want any longer. We need a big reset to take is back to the traditional lives we had before mass consumerism took over.

dikkitikka
dikkitikka
3 years ago

“We know that voluntary childlessness is linked to personality, which is highly heritable”

How’s that work, then??

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  dikkitikka

I believe that people (or at least women) who test highly for the personality trait of disagreeability are less likely to want, or have, children. These personality traits seem to be innate and run in families.

So a family full of people who are highly disagreeable, in the psychological sense, are likely to have fewer children than a family full of very agreeable people. Spreading agreeability far and wide.

Chris Hopwood
Chris Hopwood
3 years ago

The article seems to suggest that only graduate women are childless by choice. Now retired I reckon there are more non graduate childless by choice women than those who wanted them but didn’t have children for whatever reason. Many of the childless by choice brigade seem to have dogs – because dogs give rather than demand affection?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Hopwood

Dogs want affection, no less than kids – who have been known to give affection too.

Dogs are cheaper, of course, and die younger.

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago

If what I’ve seen in my life is repeated more broadly, the young graduate women of today will get to about 35 and realise that time is running out and do whatever can be done to produce a child. By that age it ends up being just the one as reproductive quality declines rapidly in the late 30s. The author could also have added in data showing the age of mothers rising, the number of late age one child families, the increase in the use of IVF by older women as counter points to the theory.
Essentially, at mid 30s , evolution kicks in and kids get produced. The ones I feel very sorry for are those that find , tragically, that they’ve left it too late. I see a lot of them in my peer group. Its actually quite sad and in no way ” liberating” .
At the end of the day…..We are primates and like all animals are driven to reproduce by our genetic code. Its probably that simple. Humans cannot outrun evolution, no matter what structures their society/ patterns of living , they come up with.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago

The problem with deciding to be childless is that it’s fairly easy for a man to change his mind, not so easy for a woman over 35.
I have seen a number of high achieving women who eventually choose a low achieving but otherwise wonderful mate. It’s the wave of the future.

Bill
Bill
3 years ago

This article covers the people that don’t want to have kids for mostly time and material reasons but it leaves out the people that do want to have kids but never end up having them. Or the people that want two or three kids but only end up having one. I think those are the people to focus on if we ever want to get the fertility rate back above replacement levels. And I’ve seen various studies over the years suggesting women end up having significantly less children then they originally wanted.

Also, how does the marriage rate or (I guess what you’d call) the coupling rate compare to prior generations. It would seem there’s a lot more single people out there than there used to be and single people don’t normally choose to have children. So then the question is why aren’t people pairing up? Or staying paired up? That probably also has a lot to do with a shift in societal pressures too but they’re different pressures than the pressure to have children.

billwald123
billwald123
3 years ago

Modern Money Theory, social programs, and the dotcom revolution in western nations have eliminated the economic necessity of prudent old people and adults living under the same roof. Neither do prudent young people need to live with their parents.

Most low wage jobs have been eliminated by automation. Before WW2, half of all American families were dirt-poor farmers who needed child labor to exist. Now less than 5% of the population are involved in food production and child labor is prohibited on “commercial” farms. Most family farmers simply love to farm and clear less than minimum wage for their labors.

We had 5 kids and they didn’t “cost” us anything because my wife enjoyed being a stay at home mother and I enjoyed my work. All the kids were taught to be adults and turned out fine . . . and “got out of Dodge” when they became adults same as my wife and I did.

Now we only “need” to spoil our grandkids. We neither need nor want to live with our children. Now we are free to live by ourselves, sit at the bar when we go out for lunch, and have no financial or other responsibilities for other people. “Life begins when the children move out and the dog dies.”

There is no inter-generational or generational fighting and when there are family events, the purpose is to eat, drink, and be merry.

Jeffrey Chongsathien
Jeffrey Chongsathien
3 years ago

Err… I believe this was fully explored by Idiocracy.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago

Yes, and notice how that most poignant (and superbly funny) movie was quietly but firmly chaperoned away from the mainstream – it was a little too close to the truth for our current norms. In the future I think it will be seen as an essential classic, every bit as prescient as Brave New World and 1984.

Maighread G
Maighread G
3 years ago

This articles presupposes that most childless women chose their childlessness. Childlessness certainly wasn’t a conscious choice for me or for most of the other childless women of my acquaintance. Nor are any of us particularly so obsessed with our careers that we wouldn’t have taken a break from them to have a child had the opportunity arisen.

caseycastille
caseycastille
3 years ago

I knew, from a very early age, that I would not”ever”want to have children. I was and am confident in this decision for no other reason than it was not an experience I care to have. I didn’t want to choose a blue or white ticket; I wanted to disregard the whole matter and resented the idea that such a choice hung over my head by simple dint of the reproductive hardware I possess.

As a woman now in perimenopause looking very much forward to the end of my ‘reproductive’ years, I feel no obligation to justify my choice to anyone, or to rationalize my choice by aligning myself with any sociopolitical argument to which my choice is conveniently relevant, regardless whether or not I agree with that argument.

I suppose I am justifying my choice here somewhat, only to make the point that women do not need to justify their choice of white or blue ticket, yet we still are often pressured to do so. In my Twenties and Thirties, I lobbied my doctors, in vain, to perform a tubal ligation. In every case, I was summarily dismissed and told that I could not know the workings of my own mind at those ages; that as I matured, my opinion on the matter was likely to change. I eventually gave up pursuit of surgical sterilization because the need to be legalistic about my reproductive choices demanded time and energy I preferred to direct into other pursuits.

The choice to pursue parenthood is an intensely personal one with dramatic public impact. I do believe that we, as a species, would do well to better consider the impact of our progenation, but ultimately, the only choice I can make about parenthood is my own. As I look forward to menopause, I also look forward to a time when we do not question, justify, indemnify, politicize and/or glorify the choice of a person to bear or not bear offspring. Far more of a priority is to address how those children who are ushered into our world will be raised, financially supported and educated. Until we can holistically address those questions and their impact, my choice is, and will remain, simply my choice. At least that is a win in women’s societal enfranchisement! I am grateful to those who suffered so that I may exert *that* much freedom over my life experience. Much gratitude to everyone who fought so that I may ignore the ticket dispenser as much as my body allows.

Pat Davers
Pat Davers
3 years ago
peterdebarra
peterdebarra
3 years ago

… all is not lost – many cultic incomers produce 6 or even 7 children, more often than not state supported too, especially up north … thus population expansion and replacement is assured and drastic demographic change is assured …

Michael Upton
Michael Upton
3 years ago

If I may say so, this is a good and thought-provoking article. While the fact that much that is special about contemporary mores is calculated to cause those who are guided by them to die out may be too obvious for many people to need saying, journalists do not often say so. The only point I would take issue with, or suggest qualifying, is the observation that “childlessness … is highly heritable”. That is true, but only in the wholly negative sense, that for better or worse and very sadly or very happily, to be childless is to be a dead end. Who was it who performed that sketch about the chap who was a eunuch because all of his forefathers had been eunuchs?

peter lucey
peter lucey
3 years ago

posted in error 🙂

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

What is the basis of ‘traditional family values’ holding that it is wrong to choose childlessness?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

The characteristics that Louise Perry associates with a freedom loving ideology seem rather shallow. Am I mistaken in such an interpretation? Of course, people are entitled to such views and entitled to choose to be childless but the ideology described is not flattering! (I realise that this is only one reason cited). Not liking kids seems a very rational reason not to have any.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

But begs the question – why the dislike, which is anti-evolutionary ?

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

Just a thought, maybe it is a subtle evolutionary trigger kicking in at a certain population density or perhaps the modern chemical soup we live in is suppressing the reproductive drive?
Could our support structures have got so good that we remain infantile ourselves for an extended amount of time and by the time we are finally matured enough or settled enough to consider children we have already overshot, by a fair margin our peak fertility.

dcockayne
dcockayne
3 years ago

Age 16-30 women now have sex with as many bad boys as possible, lie, cheat, steal, manipulate to their own advantage.
Then they ask where all the good men have gone.
Well they either gave up being good men, turned into bad boys and are busy shagging their way through tinder or they have gone mgtow in disgust.
Take a look at the expectations of graduate women, utterly delusional and they think the get better with age.
From a man’s perspective we have watched women destroy every relationship they have ever been in, we watch the lies in court that our friends, family and fathers have gone through.
Women aren’t partner material anymore, just parasites and no man wants to be a worn out whores retirement plan.
Invest in cat food…

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  dcockayne

“A worn out whores retirement plan”
:-0. I laughed out loud at that. Not exactly the modern man are you? It’s a terribly bitter and misogynistic view to hold, but it’s entertaining reading. Keep it up (while the mods let you)

Alex Moran
Alex Moran
3 years ago
Reply to  dcockayne

I think you need a hug…

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago

This is a really interesting article, and approaches the question in a way I haven’t seen in writing before.

I think the author’s observation about the class differential is very much to the point, and so is the rejection of the explanation that this is mainly about some sort of extra environmental or social conscience. It seems very clear that it isn’t, not on a wide basis, and probably not even if some of the people saying so think it’s true.

Liberal individualism does seem to be the main driver. And I think this tells us something about why people may feel less than thrilled about the trend, or why they are so cynical about the environmental hypothesis. Liberal individualism is not a particularly socially responsible ideology. It isn’t one that sees social structures and social and family relationships – the things that typically sustain more marginal communities – as important or worth cultivating. It isn’t particularly understanding or patient about the needs of others. And it’s not particularly environmentally conscious either – the elevated lifestyles that the author describes among the increasingly “free” are not only resource heavy themselves, the serve to set the bar for what a good life looks like for all. For example the push for cheap flights and vacations for all rather than the local holidays that were common, and enjoyable, two generations ago.

Miguelito
Miguelito
3 years ago

Just a quick comment as this is related to research I do…
I examine it from a biology perspective and it’s notable that humans only have so much instinct to have children, commonly women perhaps more than men. What we have is a very powerful instinct to have sex, which results in children and “releases” parental behaviors. Birth control changed that equation so that many people are choosing not to have children, but in the normal course of things, those that do will slowly or rapidly cause an increase in the percentage of people that do have the instincts to have children. I point out that for all the pain and suffering humanity has afflicted upon itself, perhaps the worst would be demographic warfare. By then I hope that our civilization has formed customs and laws to constrain the population.
If you have any interest in a description of how we can adapt genetically and strategically to the changes going on now in the world, you might want to glance at http://zagwap.com/videos/index.html. I see the potential for a very bright future for humanity but we will have to choose to have it.

Helen Barbara Doyle
Helen Barbara Doyle
3 years ago

Simply, those on benefits have limitless children because with each child comes a pay rise from the state, those in employment can only have the children they themselves can afford.

Andrew Anderson
Andrew Anderson
3 years ago

How many of us are the children of the childless? Logical problem if voluntary childlessness is inherited. TFR has fallen almost everywhere, which has I suggest nothing to do with personality, which hasn’t changed.

s williams
s williams
3 years ago

A conservative society (Muslim?) will eventually replace the current civilization I would think as conservative women reproduce at twice the rate of liberals.

Mark
Mark
3 years ago

Great article and great comment on the gender pay gap being a maternity pay gap – of all the middle class liberal left people I know, despite repeating all the standard egalitarian opinions you can think of, it’s still without exception always the mother who gives up work. The positive descrimination of simplistic gender pay gap policies ignore this fact; gender pay is far, far more complicated and deeper rooted than just old fashioned sexism and those screaming the loudest are often partly complicit in the problem

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago

Somewhere in the article she says: ‘There is a near-perfect correlation between a nation’s GDP and its fertility rate: globally, poor people have more children, not fewer’.
But then the analysis goes a bit wrong because the saying ‘it’s the economy stupid’ still is valid. Poor people, in what we call the third world, still have children from the perspective that these children will provide for them in an economical sense. In fact this is quite often not the case anymore but the expectations are still there, it’s a social/cultural thing. To that we can also add the aspect of religion which is more widespread among poor people. God still wants us to procreate.

Rich people on the other hand are more concerned with the fun factor. Why have children if they are not going to provide for us? There is no need for that anymore. The only thing left then is fun and, in the best case, a spiritual longing.

(Underneath all this of course there is still biology, that goes for every single individual on this planet, plain and simple, but the differences between populations can not be deduced from biology anymore).

Dominic Straiton
Dominic Straiton
3 years ago

Even the most pointless “career” can begin after a woman has done what no man can do. Shaping a humans life is far more worthwhile than any other crap. I had all my kids in my early twenties. Non of them were autistic. It was really easy. having children when your old (30) is a bad idea and has never been a part of human history.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago

It is, thankfully, a problem that solves itself. Pitiful selfish schlubs fail to reproduce themselves- everybody wins!