The Politics of Birth Rates: Declining Birth Rates Among Liberals Foreshadows A More Conservative Future

In a recent NPR interview, Phillip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What to Do About It, explains how birth rates and political leanings are intertwined:

It turns out that people who hold a broad range of social attitudes that most of us would recognize as liberal or progressive on average have dramatically fewer children than people who hold attitudes that most of us recognize as socially conservative….

All around the world, fertility is falling, but it’s falling least among Mormons, Islamic Fundamentalists, Christian Fundamentalists, people who adhere to a more traditional and socially conservative way of life. The three big Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all relentlessly pro-natal. They counsel to go forth and multiply. So it’s not entirely surprising that people who take their scripture literally act on it.

He points out that the birth rates in Utah and Vermont, for example, vary by 40%. Dissecting the 2004 Unites States presidential race, Longman writes:

In states where Bush won a popular majority in 2000, the average woman bears 2.11 children in her lifetime — which is enough to replace the population. In states where Gore won a majority of votes in 2000, the average woman bears 1.89 children, which is not enough to avoid population decline. Indeed, if the Gore states seceded from the Bush states and formed a new nation, it would have the same fertility rate, and the same rapidly aging population, as France — that bastion of “old Europe.”

If Gore’s America (and presumably John Kerry’s) is reproducing at a slower pace than Bush’s America, what does this imply for the future? Well, as the comedian Dick Cavett remarked, “If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t either.” When secular-minded Americans decide to have few if any children, they unwittingly give a strong evolutionary advantage to the other side of the culture divide. Sure, some children who grow up in fundamentalist families will become secularists, and vice versa. But most people, particularly if they have children, wind up with pretty much the same religious and political orientations as their parents. If “Metros” don’t start having more children, America’s future is “Retro.”

And in a just-published article he says:

In Europe today, for example, how many children different people have, and under what circumstances, correlates strongly with their beliefs on a wide range of political and cultural attitudes. For instance, do you distrust the army? Then, according to polling data assembled by demographers Ronny Lesthaeghe and Johan Surkyn, you are less likely to be married and have kids—or ever to get married and have kids—than those who say they have no objection to the military. Or again, do you find soft drugs, homosexuality, and euthanasia acceptable? Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? For whatever reason, people answering affirmatively to such questions are far more likely to live alone, or in childless, cohabitating unions, than those who answer negatively.

Does your family size fit the liberal & progressive versus conservative categories described here?

 

Interview with Rick Klau, FeedBurner’s Vice President of Business Development
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