It is common belief that the world’s population is increasing, but the opposite is in fact true. While demographers don’t agree on what this fully means, for the human race, they do agree that it will have drastic consequences for generations to come. This decrease in the human population is called demographic winter.
The fertility rate, which is the average number of children born to a woman in the course of her life time, is decreasing in many countries. Many countries are below replacement fertility rate, or the amount of children needed for a couple to replace themselves. Replacement fertility is equal to 2.1. Many counties have a fertility rate below replacement level. The United States is currently at 2.01. While Russia is 1.61, Japan is 1.4, Germany is 1.43, and China is 1.55. Most European countries are below replacement level also. Since 1990 60% of the US population growth has been from immigrants and their children, mainly due to the Hispanic immigrants (indexmudi.com).
It is estimated that worldwide there are 6 million fewer children than there were in 1990, and that by the year 2050 there will be 248 million fewer children (Feder, 2008). In the 2011 State of our Union, after talking about this decrease in children it states “this obviously means that adults are less likely to be living with children, that neighborhoods are less likely to contain children, and that children are less likely to be considered in daily life. It suggests that the heed and concerns of children—especially young children—gradually may be receding from our national consciousness” (p.23).
The things that lead to this decrease are also many of the same factors of the breakdown of the value upon the family…Working women, a richer economy, the sexual and divorce revolution.
“Working women” puts mom outside of the home and also makes her less likely to have children. A richer economy creates the mindset that we live life as an individual. This decreases the value placed upon the family. Thus, people are less likely to have children, and to have fewer so they can invest more into each one.
The sexual revolution has made it so that contraceptives are available, and that sexual relations outside of marriage are the norm. Cohabitating couples generally have fewer children. When people recognize that divorce as an option they are less likely to have children. A divorce takes time, between separation, paper work, and possible remarriage leading to fewer children.
Some of the effects of this decrease in population are labor shortages and decreased prosperity. It is said by economist that a competitive market promotes growth and prosperity. We are also seeing the populations pyramid is inverted. This means that we have a higher number of elderly than the young. When this happens the working population cannot support the elderly. The scale becomes imbalanced. Those working cannot support the demand for social security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
As sex becomes common outside of marriage it also affects our economy. Children born to single-parents are more likely to live in poverty, and have less education. They then have a disadvantage in the job market. Technology and knowledge instead of manual labor are what our economy is built around. Many times we see that these children lack the skills needed to compete in this job market (Stout).
As it becomes the trend to have less children that means that there will be many children who could lack the interaction of siblings. While not all sibling interactions are positive, there are many benefits that come from siblings. Studies have shown that having siblings improves both the physical and mental health of the child. Children learn how to help others and take care of themselves if they have siblings. They are also less likely to feel lonely, self conscious, and fearful (Virginia, 2010).
It has also been shown that children with siblings have better peer interactions, and adjust to school better. They are less likely to fight with other children and show more sympathy to others’ feelings. They show a greater ability to understand others’ emotions. “In particular, this understanding is revealed during episodes of teasing, pretend play, conflict resolution, and through their use of emotional and mental language during conversation” (Howe, 2006).
Fewer children means not only less positive interaction with siblings, but none with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, or nephews. This will rid society of vital extended family support. The effects of this “demographic winter,” will be far reaching. It will not only affect our children but their children for generations to come.
Indexmundi.com. (2014) Total fertility rate.
Stout, Rick. (2009). Demographic winter.
Feder, F. (2008). ‘Demographic winter’ exposes the century’s overlooked crisis. Human Events.
Howe, Nina. Recchia, Holly. (2006). Sibling relations and their impact on children’s development. Centre for Research in Human Development, Concordia University http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/documents/Howe-recchiaANGxp.pdf
Posted by Virginia, d. L. (2010, Aug 09). The benefits of having siblings. Spokesman Review. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/743961094?accountid=9817
People statistics. (2011). Total fertility rate (most recent) by country. Nation Master.
Social indicators of marital health and wellbeing: trends of the last four decades. (2011). The National Marriage Project.