The Corner

Europe’s Falling Birthrate

Mona, as a general matter I tend not to worry too much about falling birthrates (as a species we tend to do better with a bit of elbow room), so I may well be biased, but I can see no more evidence to suggest that this supposedly ’suicidal’ decline reveals a lost elan vital (to use your term) than there is to support the sometimes-heard notion that today’s smaller European families are a consequence of all those continentals having been left too miserable by the ebbing of religious belief to bother to reproduce.  

Put very generally, lower birthrates (a worldwide phenomenon, incidentally) are a reflection of the benefits of modernity, of healthier (more children live to adulthood) and richer (children are less likely to be seen as an essential source of income or provision for old age) societies with a greater range of opportunities for women outside the home. For those who do want to see an increase in the birth rate, however, the most effective approach (as the Scandinavians have discovered) seems to be the provision of well subsidized, easily accessible, daycare and a legal right to lengthy periods of paid maternity leave: Galt’s Gulch, not so much.


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