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    Single parents, falling fertility: a global threat?

    If the 1960’s pattern of nuclear families—married couples with children—prevailed as extensively in 2012, in the United States there would now, each year, be:

    •750,000 fewer children repeating grades;
    •1.2 million fewer school suspensions;
    •500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency;
    •600,000 fewer kids receiving therapy; and
    •70,000 fewer suicide attempts.

    Nor are the claimed ill effects of the decline of two-parent families limited to the United States. In Sweden, for example, children in single parent homes are said to be 50 percent more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol or suicidal, than children in two -parent homes.

    Those, at least, are among the claims in a 48-page study, The Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage and Fertility Have To Do With The Economy? Published October 3, 2011 by Social Trends Institute, and sponsored by family institutes in seven countries, including the Institute of Marriage and Family in Canada.

    “The long-term fortunes of the modern economy rise and fall with the family,” the study claims. It points to “the key roles marriage and fertility play in sustaining long-term economic growth, the viability of the welfare state, the size and quality of the workforce, and the profitability of large sectors of the modern economy.”

    “Children raised in intact married families are more likely to acquire the human and social capital they need to become well-adjusted, productive workers. Men who get and stay married work harder, work smarter, and earn more than their unmarried peers… [Businesses] from household products to insurance to groceries are more likely to profit when men and women marry and have children.”

    The study points to adverse economic effects from declining global birthrates. In more than 75 countries, according to the study, the birthrate is now below 2.1 children per women, the level needed to sustain population. Those countries face either shrinking populations or a need for more immigrants.

    But others see declining global birthrates as essential to curbing urgent economic and other problems of an expanding world population.

    The authors acknowledge that a fertility drop (from about six children per woman in 1950 to less than two) helped create the East Asian economic miracle, by diverting human and financial resources from child rearing to the market economy. But that early stimulus is now seen as an economic drag. As workforces diminish while the proportion of elderly people increases, society faces greater costs that must be paid by fewer workers. On an individual basis, the Chinese model of one child per family means the child could become responsible for the support of two aging parents and four elderly grandparents.

    The authors say that a greatly diminished birthrate, starting in the 1970s, is at the root of Japanese economic stagnation, and that China, with its one-child per family policy, will soon face the same economic constraint.

    The study is a call for a return to higher global birthrates. Others see that as disastrous: in social and economic terms; in the finite availability of natural resources, notably fresh water; and environmentally disastrous, not least because of the potential effect on global warming from additional billions of people.

    The two issues raised in the study—the proclaimed social and economic ills of single parenthood, and the proclaimed economic penalties of declining global birthrates—are different but related, as twins are different but related people.

    The declining birthrate can be seen as a problem that arises from a solution: a solution to the threats created by a never-ending expansion of global population. It is a pattern as old as recorded history. The solution to every major problem sooner or later gives rise to other problems, just as the answers to big questions raise new questions. Always.

    TAGS: Single parenhood,Economy,Demographics,Suicide,Delinquency,Birthrate,Social Trends Institute,Institute of Marriage and Family.

     

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