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If Americans are not having babies, is there a future for this country? At an AEI Bradley Lecture on Monday night, Jonathan Last explored this question by discussing research he conducted for his recent book "What to Expect When No One's Expecting." Last explained that to maintain its population, a country must have a fertility rate (the average number of children born to a woman) of 2.1. Not only is the US rate below this level, but it has consistently been so for the last 40 years. Last maintained that population contraction could result in poverty, creating new environmental problems as the age structure of society inverts.
The story is similar in other first-world countries, and although the fertility rate is higher in the developing world, this rate is declining more quickly, said Last. He explained how decreasing global infant mortality rates and increasing urbanization and education — especially among women — collectively contribute to lower fertility rates. And even worse, government policy cannot help boost fertility rates, said Last — neither state-sponsored child care nor natalism has resulted in notable population increases. The only potential solution, concluded Last, lies in the belief in something greater than one's self: those who attend church regularly, for example, tend to have more children.
Look around you and think for a minute: is America too crowded? For years, we have been warned about the looming threat of overpopulation — yet population growth has been slowing around the globe for two generations. Within two more, the world’s population will begin contracting sharply, with dire economic, political, and cultural implications.
Jonathan Last, author of “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting” (Encounter Books, February 2013), puts this predicament in perspective: middle-class American women are now voluntarily reproducing at about the same rate as Chinese women, who have been subjected to 30 years of an official, brutal, one-child policy. Why is this happening, and how can we reverse the trend?
Please join us in this Bradley Lecture as Last explores the roots and consequences of the population implosion, explaining why, as P.J. O’Rourke notes, “the only thing worse than having children is not having them.”
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
Karlyn Bowman, AEI
Jonathan Last, Weekly Standard
Adjournment and Reception
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Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at AEI. She researches and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, the environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics resulting from key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the US and writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.
Jonathan Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard in Washington, DC. His writings have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Claremont Review of Books, First Things, and elsewhere. His book on demographics, “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting,” will be published in February by Encounter Books. He blogs regularly at jonathanlast.com.