Needle’s point:
And now we shall try to grasp the point.  Metaphor crowds metaphor.  In a proper tale or scenario there comes a point where further motion in the same direction is no longer possible.  The boy and girl are an item, for instance, so further progress in that direction must end.  And the point should indicate on where things will head now. 

The scenario we are following is called the “demographic transition,” well established among those skilled in the field.  When a society reaches a certain stage of affluence, freedom and social mobility the number of babies “women chose to have” falls below replacement, and there it stays.  Heigh on over to and see whether I lie. 

Although the birth rate stabilizes, age at first marriage abruptly starts to rise and, in every developed country gapminder will show you, that rise never stops.  The result is that among women in the mid thirties there are more babies than among women around thirty.  That, is amazing. 

Well I don’t know what planet you live on, but on my home planet when a woman falls in love it’s forever.  She may grow to hate the man.  In fact since her deepest biological expectation is that he will act like a cousin, and he cannot because nowadays he almost certainly isn’t; the frustration will lead to much unhappiness; the logic would lead us to believe she will always grow to hate him.  But when they break up she will almost always look for an identical replacement.  That means she will look for a man of the same age. 

So I suggest that the later marriage is not because her biological clock is slowing down but because his is.  Once married, then they both scramble to make up for lost time. 

There is no major physiologic change for men approaching forty years of age, but there is for women; they tend to undergo menopause and go infertile.  So does the average age of first marriage go that high?  I fall back on again and look at Sweden for a place where everybody is middle class.  Here’s what I get:


1963  25
1964  24
1965  24
1966  24
1967  24
1968  24
1969  24
1970  24
1971  24
1972  24
1973  24
1974  24
1975  24
1976  24
1977  25
1978  25
1979  25
1980  25
1981  25
1982  25
1983  26
1984  26
1985  27
1986  27
1987  27
1988  27
1989  27
1990  28
1991  28
1992  28
1993  29
1994  29
1995  29
1996  30
1997  30
1998  30
1999  31
2000  31
2001  31
2002  32
2003  32
2004  32
2005  32

Well it certainly goes as high as 33.  It looks like that average age of first marriage goes up a year for every three calendar years.

Now ‘mongst us’all, I would not trust more recent statistics.  People will change statistics for political purposes.  I was at a meeting of fertility experts when a representative from the UN announced that because global sperm counts were in freefall, “normal” sperm counts were redefined as lower.  Else we would have had a global crisis in sperm counts.  There was no outcry; the experts just shrugged. 

Given that Sweden now has a significant number of immigrants, it would be easy to add them to the count and the fall in fertility would be ameliorated.  I’m quite sure there was no attempt to follow the fertility of those whose ancestors were Swedish.  On the other hand Singapore does not have significant immigration.  There, too, you have a prosperous nation that is just about all middle class. 

What might we find?  Well on reaching the “point,” the fertility cannot continue stable while age at first marriage continues up; menopause will make itself felt.  Nor can fertility rise while age at first marriage stays constant; physiologically, fertility at that age is already maxed out.  Theoretically the age at first marriage and fertility could both suddenly stand stock still, but his suggests a massive change in the men, for which there is no evidence.  Similarly, age at first marriage could fall, but this would require an even bigger change, for which there is neither evidence nor known cause.  Of course Singapore might just be lagging behind, but when we look at the evidence, downloaded April 27, 2015.

What we see is this:

It looks pretty stable through 2011.  Then something happens.  There is a significant fall.  And then the next year… well I looked at the next year a few weeks ago and the fall for 2013 was worse, but I did not download it at the time.  Reports of more recent estimates are, to my eye, rather opaque:

But the result is well documented with mice in the Proceedings of the Royal Society:

“A large cage with plenty of room, food and bedding material was prepared.  Four male and four female mice were introduced.  The mice were counted regularly.  This was the result:

History of population of mice in a closed Utopian universe.  Solid line is actual counts.  Broken line after about 700 days represents an estimate of numbers on the basis of observed mortality.  Points after Day 1000 are slightly lower than projected due to removal of about 150 mice for other studies.  A final point was added to the graph for Day 1471 when the population had decreased to 100. At final editing of this paper on November 13, 1972 (Day 1588) the inexorable decline brought the population to 27 (23females and 4 males, the youngest of which exceeded 987 days of age)
John Calhoun Death Squared: The Explosive Growth and Demise of a Mouse Population Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine vol. 66, January 1973 page 80 (The crude arrow is mine.  I initially thought that their estimates might have introduced an error, but on further review and reflection I think they are probably good.)
The population grows exponentially for a time, then grows more slowly.  The last live birth occurs on day 600, at which time all births cease and the population slowly dies out.  (Calhoun himself thought the problem was excessive social contact.  In 1973 there was no text messaging.  As it turns out, people can handle a lot of social contact.)”

Let me shave that down and add emphasis:  There is a point where ALL BIRTHS CEASE.

And that’s about it.  Sweden, Singapore, anyplace where humans – like Calhoun’s mice – have adequate nutrition and do not live in mortal dread if they stir, will have their birth rate fall to zero.  For the middle class the world over just now, that appears to happen in 2020, the year when we will see clearly (unless we trust government statistics.) 

Is there time in the next five years to fix it?  I should hope so, but it certainly is not going to fix itself.  People will have to look at the facts, maybe
or more pleasantly Babies Triumph over Evil on YouTube, or maybe a more eloquent voice will rise.  But we don’t have long.

So when did the crisis really start, and if it is irremediable, how long has that been true?  I shall address that soon on Needle’s shaft. 

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