As we enter the 2020s, the world has become increasingly cognisant of the need for more babies after a decade of worryingly low growth.
In the United States the population grew by only 0.48% between 2018 and 2019, according to newly released Census Bureau estimates. That is the lowest annual growth rate since 1918.
In fact, according to analysis from the Brookings Institute, it “caps off a decade that should show the slowest 10-year population growth since the first census was taken in 1790.”
The United States birth rate fell to a 32-year low in 2018, and 30 states experienced decade-wide declines in youth population, with California losing as many as 400,000 young people. The nation as a whole sustained an absolute decline of 1.14 million youth between 2010 and 2019.
The dramatic decline in the youth population comes at a time when there is a large ageing population which will increasingly rely on young people for support, through their friendship, employment and their taxes.
As a result, the Census Bureau projects that from 2030 immigration will account for more than half of the nation’s population growth. Thus, racial proportions will shift significantly. By 2030, whites will have dropped to 55.8% of the population, and Hispanics will have grown to 21.1%. The percentage of black and Asian Americans will also grow significantly.
What are the root causes of such an unprecedented situation? Family life is changing dramatically the world over. According to Steve Mosher, president of the Virginia-based Population Research Institute, we need to offer more positive encouragement to young couples to get married and have children. He considers there are three fundamental root causes of low fertility:
- Abortion: “The first thing that we as a people must address is abortion on demand, which has led to sex without responsibility, and the wanton destruction of the unborn.”.
- The porn epidemic: “The second thing we must address is the porn epidemic, which is devastating young men. It has undermined healthy relationships between the sexes, and led to virtual sex replacing procreative sex.” This trend haunts many countries and is an increasingly scary factor as porn usage surges. In an era of celebrated female liberation it is ironic that women have never been more objectified.
- Student loans: “The third thing we must deal with are student loans. These ‘debt traps’ have left millions of young people saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt that will take years, or even decades, to pay back, depressing marriage and birth rates.” According to the College Board, the total amount borrowed by grad students in particular has been climbing. Mosher suggests the forgiveness of student debt in proportion to how many children a couple have; a type of family subsidy tied to student loan debt. Other countries also provide examples of less crippling systems than the United States, such as systems where paying off student loan debt is tied to future income, and effectively paid as an additional payment (collected along with tax payments) on all future income until it is paid off.
Many places continue to fail to address the underlying issues facing young people and families, but as Mosher warns: “Children are the only future a family has. Indeed, they are the only future a nation has.” The 2020s may mark a turning point as we continue to see people wake up to this.