Conservative policy-makers turn their attention to declining fertility rates, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review.
If there were an “American Conservatism 101” course, it would have a heading in the syllabus: “Subsidize something, and you get more of it.” In the 20th century, modern states started subsidizing old age. In the United States that includes Social Security and a number of tax incentives meant to create and redirect income to the elderly. The most appalling forms of elder poverty have been largely eliminated by direct cash payments, federal intervention in health care, and induced savings and retirement accounts. This has produced a generation in old age — the Boomers, who control over half of the nation’s household wealth. Modern welfare states were premised on growing populations, where one generation is larger than the last.
You could call it a lack of investment in our own posterity. Demographers see it in the steep decline in family formation and in American women’s decreasing fertility rate, which has crashed well below replacement level, to 1.73 children per woman. This rate is set to drop even lower in the wake of the pandemic. A quarter of America’s Millennial women are projected to die childless, though most of them want to become mothers. For decades, the average American woman has said she desires to have a larger number of children than she does. This desired fertility rate would fall between 2.3 and 2.5 children per woman. Lyman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) points out that the gap between what women desire and what they realize in their own families means that “for every 10 women in America, there will be 6 missing children.”