Monday, October 8, 2012

No New Baby Boom

It looks like an expected baby boom is failing to materialize.  Birth rates in the U.S. fell for the fourth year in a row, with fewer than 4 million births, the lowest since 1998.  Having children is certainly behavior, and from that standpoint, this seems like good news.

Some of the points made in this news article include:  “birth rates for teen moms have been falling since 1991 and hit another historic low,” and “the birth rate for single women fell for the third straight year.”  In most cases, these mothers would be the hardest pressed to find the financial and time resources to care for their children, especially in a down economy.

That economy is the main reason given for the overall decline “with experts calling it more proof that the weak economy has continued to dampen enthusiasm for having children.”  “The theory is that many women or couples who are out of work, underemployed or have other money problems feel they can't afford to start a family or add to it.”

In this example, people get it.  Behavior has consequences.  Good critical thinking about the impact of starting or adding to a family leads to the decision to wait until they are financially, and perhaps emotionally, in a better position.  There may even be hints of stronger discipline and responsibility.  The argument that you can’t support a family of four on the minimum wage never made sense.  How could anyone with only a minimum-wage job or a minimum-wage skill set, assume he has the right to head up a family of four?  That always struck me as faulty reasoning.  Based on this report, it’s nice to see that kind of cart-before-the-horse thinking is beginning to subside.

A second article presents the same facts with a slightly different interpretation.  The writer implies that this might be a reaction to the economy, but could also be the beginning of a new trend, mothers delaying the birth of their first child until later in life.  It will take more time and data to establish whether this is true or not.

No matter the cause, this behavior increases the likelihood of parents being financially prepared before taking on the responsibility of raising children.  This is a very good sign in a society deep in debt but committed to supporting those who still find themselves unprepared.

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