Baby boom:
After World War II, there was a sudden rise in the birth rate at least in the United States and Europe.  In fact, if one looks at the least developed countries and their birth rate as described in the posting of August 25. 2008, they were experiencing a birth rate that left the rest of the world in the dust. 

A somewhat closer look at the numbers suggests that the start of the baby boom actually came before the entry of the United States into the war.  I spoke with a woman once who had born children in 1938, 1942 and 1947.  She told me that in 1938 the nursery was very empty.  There simply were not many children being born.  By 1942, there was evidently a significant increase in the number.  The nursery was not empty.  And by 1947 the place was packed and the boom was in full cry. 

All of these births occurred in different towns, so she did not make a direct comparison, and since she was a very sociable person I suspect that she got the report or at least confirmation of the observation from the nurses working there.  And in fact it seems she was right.

So the baby boom was not a matter of post war euphoria.  It was not a bunch of victorious men swarming home determined to put the horror of war behind and begin full and happy lives with families.  It was something else.

What seems most probable is that the boom was a result of a world wide shakeup in population structures.  Colonialism was in decline.  Old habits were changing, and the beginning of escape from the Great Depression meant people had wider social horizons.  They took advantage of them.

Although in the long run, the broad social horizon, the diverse and mobile gene pool, is a death trap, there seems to be a first generation boost in fertility.  The Denmark study of marital radius compared with fertility indicates that over a modest degree of decreasing relatedness there are more babies in the first generation than there were before.  Also, the study of the black footed ferrets, the birth rate of the least developed countries from 1950 to 1970 and the computer model of a population permitted to rise to 20,000 all show one thing, among others, in common.  During exponential growth of a population, there is a transient surge in fertility above even what a pure exponential climb would predict. 

All three populations show the same thing, because all three are recovering from stalled growth, from fertility in chains because of inbreeding depression and probably also a hangover of outbreeding depression at the same time.

In short, a baby boom is the last thing you want for a human population.  It is part of a process beginning with increased fertility followed by depressed fertility.  That is very difficult to plan for.  In terms of animals, which to the best of our knowledge, spend little time worried about their own distant future and none worrying about the welfare of generations unborn (in which light we are not so very dissimilar from them) an unstable population can be managed, be it in a laboratory or a forest.  Humans can intervene.  But we have no patience, and rightly so, with intrusive intervention in human population stability.  We don’t just send game wardens out and cull the herd. 

I do not resent the baby boom.  Some of my best friends are boomers.  But in spite of the glamour and excitement of the time, in spite of the enormous economic growth, and in spite of the cultural and social advances (if I could think of any; right now I’m just getting drug culture, personal untidiness, casual sex, skyrocketing divorce if even marriage, AIDS epidemic, race riots, and hatred of the military, most of the remarkable things good and bad having already been set into motion by people born before the boom) it was a poisoned apple.  Social health, like mental health, means stability with flexibility, not stereotyped behavior or instability. 

The baby boom caused the baby bust. 

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