Yes, it’s time to take out the pyramid again.
Spiegel Online has an article up today concerning a report called Fertility Reactions to the Great Recession” in Europe: Recent Evidence from Order-Specific Data. That’s fancy-speak for, “We’ve figured out that underemployed people have fewer children than fully employed people.” Specifically, that for every 1% rise in unemployment, the birth rate dropped by 0.1%-0.2% in the most fertile demographic in the countries examined. That may not sound very big, but some countries are facing 50% unemployment in that demographic. You do the math.
Basically, serf reproduction is becoming concentrated in the Freemen and Villein classes. Slaves can barely manage to feed themselves, and government-largess is drying up quickly, so they have little interest in bearing children now. Cottagers are still too busy trying to “make it” to settle down. The nobles are reproducing like rabbits, and the freemen are busily imitating their fairytale weddings and idyllic housekeeping, housewife and college funds included. Villeins are sort of tagging along and struggling to not be left behind. But the rest of them… not so much going on in those wombs.
There’s essentially a chain-reaction going on. Men can no longer afford wives and women can therefore no longer afford children. And the baby boom dries right up.
Not that it’s noticeable from the popular culture, which is now veritably obsessed with all-things baby. From the L.A. Times:
The countdown for the royal baby is on! Kim Kardashian’s baby arrived early! Jessica Simpson named her baby boy Ace! Take a cursory look at the celebrity magazines at the newsstand and it would appear we’re obsessed with pregnancies and babies.
The U.S. fertility rate tells another story.
It says we’re living vicariously through rich, famous people who can afford to have babies while the rest of us wait for the economy to recover to start families.
I’d never really thought of myself or my children as luxury goods, but when I see how hard my husband works to keep us in “bed and bread”, I’m struck by what a struggle simple family life has become in our era of decline. Although marrying and having children tends to exert upward-pressure on men’s incomes, there has developed a hard economic ceiling against that effect. Once underemployment becomes this entrenched, even men who are working hard will struggle to move forward — or to find employment at all! And no job, no wife. No wife, no baby.