Friday, August 28, 2020

Second Demographic Transition

Lyman Stone at AEI cites a followup on the Second Demographic Transition, that is, the theory put forth by Dutch researchers in 1986, that births to unmarried couples will increase, and that low birth rates will continue with no rebound, neither from women who merely delayed childbearing, nor from a resurgence of birthrates as women achieved more equality.
But this month, one of the original researchers, Ron Lesthaeghe, has published a paper reckoning with how this theory has held up over the last 35 years. And the verdict is: proponents of the Second Demographic Transition theory were basically correct in their predictions: the model has been useful for understanding social changes since 1986, and alternative theories have not held up. In other words, virtually every society in the world is likely to move towards very low birth rates eventually, unless there is some unforeseen change in deeper social processes.
I was told by my girlfriend in 1970, who had been assigned Paul Erlich's The Population Bomb for a high-school class, and by many of the best and brightest thereafter, that the world was in danger of catastrophic overpopulation, which we had better fix now, now, now with birth control.

Guess not.  Demographic collapse, first in the wealthiest countries, looks like a serious problem. Europe keeps good numbers, so we can see what's up.  Europe is ageing. Rather quickly, despite immigration.
Italy and Germany have median ages around 47.  Japan's is 49, and there are 50 countries with median ages over 40. (The US is at 38.5) For contrast, the median age in Europe in 1970 was about 32, and about 29 in the US. With birthrates at around 1 per female in Japan and Italy over the last 20 years, reflect on the decrease in the use of the words aunt, uncle, and cousin among schoolchildren in those countries.

This is the new reality.  Unless there is some unforeseen cultural change, this is not going away.


Christopher B said...

Your girlfriend's position was a lot of hand waving to cover the lure of being able to control who to reproduce with. It won't end until somebody outlaws birth control in a sort of reverse one child policy. Even incentives for child bearing won't work.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, that's not going to happen, but you are probably right. The Scandinavians have had mild success after intense effort in terms of encouraging more children. The French used to break even, now they don't.

David Foster said...

It would be interesting to correlate this data with divorce--are those women who have 2 or more children more likely to be those who are still with their original husbands?...would seem to make intuitive sense.

And even if a couple with a bad relationship remains married, I think the odds of any additional children would tend to be considerably reduced.

james said...

I gather from following the link that the graph displays the percentage of the population one 65.

Uncle Screwtape came close to addressing this point when speaking of something else: "Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. "

Are the behaviors that liberated people like the same ones that will preserve their liberties--or yet further, will preserve _them_?

Texan99 said...

Never before in the history of Earthbound organisms has reproduction been a significantly free choice. Up to now, species survived if they were successful in a drive to reproduce that was not particularly optional. Now, for humans, a culture can survive if it has elements that promote reproduction as a choice. We haven't nearly had time--and may not get time--to reconsider what culture elements would make childbearing attractive. We've always instead had cultures that made it work when it was inevitable. How many men would choose to bear children if it somehow became a physical option? What would have to change in their lives in order to make it an attractive choice? What sort of partners would they be looking for? Would the attractive partners be anything like themselves?