What to Expect when No One’s Expecting – America’s Coming Demographic Disaster

What-to-Expect

This book was an interesting look at the demographics of the United States, however the author also touched on the wider issues of population dynamics and used other countries as examples. I will recommend this book to my sixth form students, and it would be appropriate for students studying both A’Level and International Baccalaureate Geography. The book is readable while at the same time having a secure factual underpinning.

The book opens with this quote:

Demography is the key factor. If you are not able to maintain yourself biologically, how to you expect to maintain yourself economically, politically, and militarily? It’s impossible. The answer of letting people from other countries come in … that could be an economic solution, but it’s not a solution of your real sickness, that you are not able to maintain your own civilization.

– Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, 2012

  • The author looks at the historical shift in American fertility. In 1800 the fertility rate for white Americans was 7.04. The earliest reliable data for black Americans in the 1850s puts it at 7.90-. By 1890 the fertility rate for whites had fallen to 3.87; while blacks had only fallen to 6.56.
  • In 1960s America the combined total fertility rate was 3.1, in 1980 it was 1.8, and then to 2.12 in 2007, falling to 2.01 in 2009. However this rebound was largely driven by the high fertility of immigrants.
  • The decline in American fertility rate is the result of a ‘complex constellation of factors’. The decline in church attendance, the increase of women in the workforce, the laws mandating car seats, and reform in divorce statutes. None of these changes were designed to drive down population however they have had that affect.
  • In 1936 64% of Americans said that three or more children were ideal, today only 33% of American’s think that. In practice actual fertility is lower than desired fertility.
  • Total fertility varies across the United States, Utah had a TFR of 2008, whereas Vermont had the lowest at 1.67.
  • Due to demographic momentum you don’t see the effects of fertility decrease until the last above-replacement generation dies.
  • As a society ages the level of entrepreneurship and inventiveness decreases. Older citizens necessarily seek less risky employment and investments.
  • Fertility correlates with income. The poorest families, wiht annual incomes under $20,000 have the second highest fertility rate, 2.038. The higherst fertility is found amongh lower-middle-class families, those with incomes between $35,000 and $49,000, they have a TFR of 2.052. As you slide up the scale fertility drops.
  • One of the biggest predictors of fertility is woman’s educational level. If a women does not have a high school diploma the TFR is 2.45; whereas for a women with a Bachelor’s degree it is 1.63.
  • The abortion rate also has an impact on Fertility, for White Americans abortion lowered the fertility rate by 0.08 or 4%; for Black Americans it lowered the fertility rate down by 0.34 or 13%.
  • Research by an Australian researcher, Vegard Skirbekk, stated in the 14th century the wealthy were having as twice as many children as the lower classes, by 1600 elites were bearing only 25% more children. The trend lines crossed in the Western world in 1750, and then reproduction of elites never went below that of the working class.
  • If current fertility rates remain constant in Europe the total population of the continent will go from 738 million in 2010 to 482 million by the end of the century.
  • It is difficult to predict what is going to happen in the future because since the industrial revolution there is no model for a country experiencing a sustained, structural shrinking of its population.
  • In the US the Social Security Administration predicts that by 2034 the ration of workers to retirees will be 2.1 workers for each retiree, today it is 2.9, in 1950 it was 16.5.
  • Abortions and the availability of abortions also plays a role in a countries population; there have been 53 million abortions in the United States since 1973; there have been 37.9 migrants in the same period of time (both legal and illegal).
  • By 2050 China’s population will be falling by 20 million every 5 years, and one out of every four citizens will be over the age of 65. (goes to explain why last week they announced their population policy would be relaxed)
  • The author concludes with ways to increase the fertility rate:
    • Reducing social security taxes for parents with children; remove them for parents with three children under the age of 18.
    • Eliminate the need for college or make college more conducive to couples with families; for example BYU provides family housing.
    • Increase the number of people going to church. (although this is a simplification of the authors argument).