No country has ever reversed a birthrate of 1.3 or below, known as the “lowest-low fertility.” Ten countries—including Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea—have passed this point of no return. An average of one child per woman cuts a nation’s population in half in 30 years.
The map to the right shows the global pattern of fertility in 2018. Growth has dropped in virtually every nation, including sub-Saharan Africa, where the average rate in 2018 was 4.78.
In the United States, the same downward trends are at work. In January 2010, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published “Expected Number of Births over a Woman’s Lifetime—National Vital Statistics System, United States, 1940–2018”:
“During 1940–2018, the expected number of births a woman would have over her lifetime, the TFR [total fertility rate], was highest for women during the post–World War II baby boom (births during 1946–1964). In 1957, the TFR reached a peak of 3.77 births per woman. The TFR generally declined for the birth cohort referred to as Generation X from 2.91 in 1965 to 1.84 in 1980. For the birth cohorts referred to as Millennials (Generation Y) and Generation Z, the TFR first increased to 2.08 in 1990 and then remained generally stable until it began to decline in 2007. By 2018, the expected number of births per woman fell to 1.73, a record low for the nation. Except for 2006 and 2007, the TFR has been below the level needed for a generation to replace itself (2.10 births per woman) since 1971.”
Small cities, towns, and suburbs generally support family formation and children. Larger cities have smaller families. In 2015, 25 percent of U.S. households were single-person. These realities develop political implications. Two-thirds of single women support the Democratic Party, at least in part because its platform supports abortion. A “simple” procedure allows women to be like men: to have sex and not be pregnant. On the other hand, married women with children tend to be Republicans.
Two cultural mindsets divide the United States. One side values singleness, minimal responsibilities, freedom to consume. The other treasures community, families, “being” more than “having.”
In his article, Kotkin engages the deeper philosophical, theological questions as well. What does it mean to be human? Do we have no more value than a cockroach? Are we the cancers of the earth or the stewards of creation? Consumers or creators? Can we have a hopeful future based on the existence of a beneficent Creator, or do we live in a silent universe without purpose? The answers will shape our future.
SOUTH KOREA’S POPULATION SLIDE is even more tragic than immediately apparent. This disturbing trajectory developed during a massive push to evangelize and spread the gospel. South Korea’s anti-maternal, anti-familial, and pro-death culture grew during a great evangelistic and church-planting movement.