Many of the issues across the country could be symptoms of an unexpected and much deeper social problem.
According to Jonathan Last of the Wall Street Journal, the economic, political and cultural problems facing the United States can all be linked to a falling rate of procreation.
“Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms,” Last wrote in an essay on Feb. 12. “What America really faces is a demographic cliff: the root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.”
“Fertility rate” means the average number of children a woman bears over her lifetime. For a society’s population to remain stable, the rate must be 2.1. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, America’s current fertility rate is 1.93, meaning that its population count is declining over time.
Apparently by choice, Americans are only barely surpassing China, a country that implements a one-child-per-family policy and has a fertility rate of 1.54.
A variety of causes may contribute to a diminishing rate of procreation in the United States. Last said singles are becoming less likely to marry and form families.
“There are thousands of ramifications,” Hal Heaton, BYU finance professor, said. “If you have fewer people and they produce less goods and output, the economy may not grow. In fact, it may shrink.”
Heaton explained how the “dependency ratio” will surge dramatically as this trend continues. When dependent constituencies, like older, retired people, become more numerous than younger working providers, there are damaging consequences.
“We have this tsunami of baby boomers ready to retire. That’s going to start putting pressure on Social Security and Medicare. Government expenditures tend to be heavily on older people,” Heaton said. “So that means deficits will grow. It also means that people will start drawing on their savings, so that’s going to put pressure on stock markets and bond markets as people sell off their assets to pay for their retirement.”
While one or two-child families are becoming the norm more and more in America, Latter-day Saint families are often the exception to the rule. According to National Vital Statistics Reports from 2010, Utah has the highest fertility rate of any state in the country. Eastern states typically have lower fertility rates, bringing down the nation’s average, with Rhode Island at 1.63, Connecticut at 1.723 and New York at 1.814. Western states tend to boast higher numbers, with Arizona at 2.068 and Idaho at 2.241. Utah holds the highest fertility rate of all 50 states at 2.449.
Families with five or more children are not uncommon in LDS culture. Marissa Schroedter, a senior majoring in French, is the third of six children. Schroedter said people would often stare and ask her mother if the children were “all hers.”
“I had a great time, even as a middle child, being in a big family. I still have great relationships with each sibling,” Schroedter said, explaining that she and her husband, who are currently expecting their first baby, hope to have a large family. “I always knew my non-Mormon friends had one or two kids in their families, while my Mormon friends had more.”