Tranquility before the baby bust:
Maybe not having babies won’t be so bad.  (Timothy M. Smeeding Adjusting to the Fertility Bust SCIENCE vol. 346 no. 6206 October 10, 2\914 page 163) That is called making virtue of necessity.  It reminds me of a recent note in which some expert suggested that the campaign to prevent a 2oC rise in the temperature of the (surface of) the earth was misguided and a more complex set of parameters needed to be used.  What had happened was that the CO2 levels had already risen past the point where the temperature was going to pass the much advertised brink.  Obviously nobody suggesting getting control of carbon emissions was about to shrug, give it up and go off to do something else.  So with babies.  Every effort (except listening to me) has failed, so reduced babies must be a good thing, eh?

The author acknowledges that adjustments will have to be made, most importantly spending less money on the care of elders and more on the education of youth.  That sounds good to me.  The older and better established have always had to invest in the young and inexperienced.  Furthermore older people tend to be better savers and if that money is invested in productive capital, everybody may be better off, the efforts of youth producing more wealth because of the frugality of their elders. 

On the other hand, just about all the remaining growth in this century (and they are now saying that the world’s population will indeed continue to increase despite the decline of the richer world) will be in Africa.  At present most of the intergenerational transfer in that part of the world is younger people supporting their aging parents.  On the face of it that looks like the poorer countries need bigger families than rich ones, as has usually been said, but apparently things are not so simple.  They say in the US the problem is now underinvestment in the young, particularly their education. 

The article reports with satisfaction that American fertility is falling most spectacularly among the young.  If ultimately the birth rate is to fall to disastrously low levels because of mismatched epigenetic signals, one would expect it to start among the young  and sweep across the generation like a windshield wiper and the article acknowledges that falling fertility among older couples is a worry. 

Also it reports that the birth rate in Sweden and that in France are rising in response to social interventions like paid parental leave.  The last time I heard about that it wasn’t that couples were having more children so much as having them a little earlier; if that is now different it is not made explicit.

And it concludes that both increasing and decreasing populations require adjustments.  It doesn’t point out that neither can go on forever.

I wish I could say, “At least people are thinking about it.”  Instead all I can say is that people have noticed.

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