Jonathan Last notes some interesting swings in the childbirth statistics:
America’s general fertility rate is now the lowest it’s ever been. Which is not great news.
In the press and the blogs, people focused on the correlation between the birth rate and the Great Recession. And there’s a lot to that. Economics is an important driver of fertility. But there’s more going on here, and while this birth data may seem highly abstract, when you drill down [Ha! In a story about reproduction, he said, “drill down!” – 15-year-old Jason, who will now get back in the time machine and not make any more comments] into the numbers you see a very particular story about what American culture is like at this moment.
Finally, buried deep in the report is the most telling number of all: In the last year the number of “first” births dropped to the lowest level ever recorded in America. What does that mean? It means that we’re slowly bifurcating into a country where there are two kinds of adults: people who have children, and people who do not. The people who have children are inclined to have seconds and thirds. But for the first time in our nation’s history, we’re growing a sizable cohort of adults who remain childless their entire lives.
Now, break into discussion groups and consider this: Are people who choose to remain childless likely to have particular political leanings different from those who don’t? And what does that portend for elections, say, eighteen years from now?