One of the bigger stories this past week was the unsurprising news that women are putting off baby-making, perhaps due to the recession. As CBS news reports, the US birth rate has hit an all-time low, in fact the lowest in a century.
While it is acknowledged that other factors like a drop in immigration and a postponing of pregnancy rather than a decision not to have children at all have impacted the current statistics, it is also true that this drop mirrors a similar downturn that happened during the great depression.
I know it's a cliche to say that if everyone waited until they could afford a child to have one, there would be no children. But children are expensive in so many ways--not just the actual expense of rearing them, but the consequential expenses of taking time off, maybe even years out of the job market, and the myriad of baby-related items and opportunities that are hard for new parents to resist.
My granddaughter apparently didn't get the memo, since she made me a great-grandmother two weeks ago. But oddly enough, the recession did factor into her decision--she's in the midst of college, and felt that taking a quarter off to have a baby wasn't a problem since the job market is so bad that any delay in entering into it seems like a good idea.
I have to say that, as a child of the sixties, who was influenced by Paul Erlich's "The Population Bomb," it doesn't bother me to see the birth rate decline. Maybe it should, since, as a senior citizen, I need those upcoming generations to support me in my dotage.
But I suspect the planet will do just fine with fewer folks on it.