Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Declining US Fertility Rates


Expanding opportunities for women and economic uncertainty are both factors in declining US fertility rates

Ann M. Oberhauser

The decline in population growth in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020 is part of a broader national trend linked to falling birth rates, but also immigration changes and other factors. In May of 2021 the scope of that change became clear, with a record low of 55.8 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2020, a 4% drop from 2019. Other countries are facing similar slowdowns in population growth.

This shift has been underway in the U.S. for many years.

In the early 1900s, my grandfather grew up in a family with nine children in rural Iowa. They all worked hard to maintain the farm and support the family. Some of the children left the farm to attend college, start families and find work elsewhere. My father grew up in a city and worked as an adult to support his family as the sole income earner.

The next generation, the baby boomers, was raised during a period of economic expansion that accompanied an uptick in fertility – the average number of children born to a woman in her reproductive years. Post-boomer generations have had fewer children, contributing to a 50% decline in U.S. birth rates between 1950 and 2021, from 25 births per 1,000 people to 12.

Unbiased. Nonpartisan. Factual.

Economic opportunities, social norms and changing gender roles – especially expanding education and employment options for many women – help to explain why fertility has slowed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. That change has repercussions for trends in workforce numbers, employment, health care, housing and education.

Explaining the decline in fertility

Each generation experiences unique circumstances that affect fertility. The overall trend in declining birth rates, however, is largely due to women’s changing roles, employment shifts and advances in reproductive health.

After World War II, the U.S. saw rapid change in gender roles with the expansion of women’s education and entry into the labor force. Starting with the baby boom period from 1946 to 1964, many middle- and upper-class women had increased opportunities to get an education beyond high school, which had typically been the end of women’s formal education.

In 1950, only 5.2% of women had completed four years of college or more. By 2020, this proportion rose to 38.3%.

In comparison, 7.3% of men completed at least four years of college in 1950 and 36.7% in 2020 – a smaller increase than for women.

Increases in college education and rising employment among women tend to delay motherhood. Women with higher educational levels, especially unmarried women, tend to put off childbearing until their early 30s.

In addition, medical advancements and federal regulators’ approval of the birth control pill in the 1960s expanded reproductive freedom for women.

This situation contributed to women’s becoming mothers later in their lives. For example, the median age for first-time mothers among women who were born in 1960 was 22.7 years, compared with 20.8 years for women born in 1935.

Moreover, the teen birth rate was a record low in 2019, with 16.7 births per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19. Birth rates remain higher, however, among Latina and Black teens than teens who are white or Asian. In contrast, the share of women ages 40 to 44 years who have ever had children increased from 82% in 2008 to 85% in 2018. Foreign-born women tend to have higher birth rates than U.S.-born women.

Geographic location also reveals important differences in the U.S. birth rate. Women in New England have fewer children, partly because of higher levels of education. In contrast, women in the South and Great Plains have among the highest birth rates in the U.S.

Finally, economic uncertainty affects fertility trends. Economists estimate that a family will spend on average $233,610 per child before they are 18 years old. Financial upheaval during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 also contributed to declining birth rates, while the COVID-19 pandemic saw a 4% decline in fertility rates in 2020, the lowest since 1979.

A look at the future

Fewer babies and young people and a growing older population will undoubtedly affect future generations.

Several developed countries in Europe have also experienced declining fertility rates, with widespread social and economic impacts. In Italy, for instance, rapid drops in fertility have led to closing hospitals and schools. In 2019, the average Italian family had 1.2 children, part of a declining trend since the 1960s, when it was more common for families to have four children. As a result, Italy’s percentage of seniors is second only to Japan, with growing concern for future labor supplies.

In the U.S., lower fertility rates translate to fewer working-age people and possible labor shortages in many sectors of the economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of people age 65 and older has been growing, increasing by one-third since 2010.

A woman looks at a newborn baby in her arms
New babies are one part of a healthy society and economy. Diana Haronis, Moment via Getty Images

Many economists and social scientists recommend a restructuring of work to support and retain the shrinking number of workers. These recommendations include more flexible work conditions, access to quality and affordable child care, immigration reform and job security. Several of these measures would provide much-needed support for parents and particularly women in the workforce.

Second, living spaces and residential housing may also have to accommodate this growing elderly population with arrangements that include assisted living, retirement communities and ways for people to age in place. These housing changes would help women in particular, who live longer than men.

Third, health services such as insurance, medical care and employment will have to adjust to these demographic shifts as more resources are needed to support an older population.

Finally, declining fertility rates are a growing concern for educators and policymakers. The so-called “demographic cliff” will inevitably lead to school closings and consolidation, and declining student recruitment and enrollment in the U.S. One projection is that there will be 10% fewer college students in 2054 than today.

The overall decline in fertility rates has far-reaching effects on society and future generations. In the early 1900s, college education and a career were not options for women like my great-grandmother. Advances in reproductive health and women’s expanding access to education and employment have produced a demographic shift with implications for work, housing, health care and education.

[The Conversation’s Politics + Society editors pick need-to-know stories. Sign up for Politics Weekly._]

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The U.S. is the richest country in the world. Few people have access to it.


“The United States is one of the richest countries in the world. So why can’t we have X?” We hear this question all the time, where X is universal health care, affordable education, reliable infrastructure … take your pick.

It’s true. America is swimming in wealth. Problem is, too few people have access to it.

In this issue, we’ve asked what if that weren’t the case? What can be done about systemic inequality of wealth? To answer that, you’ll have to hang with us as we talk about capital, the big money needed to really change lives.

Consider the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which is showing what creative people can do to provide capital and credit to low- and moderate-income residents.

Research shows that access to capital and credit works best for them to improve their economic situations. Yet it’s precisely what has been in short supply for low-income Americans, who are often seen as high-risk by potential lenders. So the fund makes loans — to home-buyers, to nonprofit organizations, and the like. The fund’s money comes from upper- and middle-income New Hampshirites, who receive a fixed rate of return (for example, up to 5 percent for 10-year investments) that outstrips that of standard bank certificates of deposit.

Since it was founded in 1983, the fund has never failed to pay out for investors, and it maintains a pool of money to cover any potential losses on loans. It’s a virtuous circle, where members of a community all benefit.

There are other opportunities across the economy to solve the shortage of capital. There’s a lot of money out there, and it can be shared better. The first step is to accept the limitations of some traditional progressive solutions. For example:

ON THE COVER: YES! Photo of Me’Lea Connelly by Lauren B. Falk.

• Cooperative and self-reliance enterprises can’t by themselves build equity to overcome the vast disparity in wealth between Black and White communities. It’ll take a massive injection of reparations money to compensate for centuries of slavery, racial discrimination, and disenfranchisement.

• Charitable foundations have been a force for good, true. But most endowments are invested in Wall Street markets, reinforcing the same capitalist system that creates the need for charities in the first place. The industry has been on a 20-year trajectory to shift directions. Maybe it’s time to shift faster, because the sector’s $827 billion in en­dowments could do a lot of good invested compassionately.

• The city of Seattle voted to divest $3 billion in municipal banking from Wells Fargo because of its funding of the Dakota Access pipeline. But Seattle couldn’t find another big bank and had to backtrack. This is giving new energy to the movement to create local public banks as a viable alternative to Wall Street giants.

Money does not have an inherent moral value. But when it gets to where it is needed, improving the lives of the many, that’s “good” money.

For more click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Dear NPR: The Stock Market Is Not the Economy


Dear NPR: The Stock Market Is Not the Economy

Rather than stock market prices I would rather be regularly informed about hunger in America.


June 29, 2021

I have a pet peeve with NPR. Why do so many of its top- of- the- hour five minute newscasts begin and end with short stock market updates? Is there no more important factoid its news editors could be passing along to us?

NPR likes to portray itself as a more thoughtful and penetrating alternative, but its frequent stock quotations are nothing more than listeners could gain from CNBC any hour of the day-—not to mention simply googling any stock in which the listener is invested.

Worse still the way NPR newscasters present market news is often misleading. Telling listeners that the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1000 points is very dramatic, but the approximately 3% of total market capitalization it represents hardly compares with the 500 point, 20% one day fall of the market in October of 1987. So I have one bit of unsolicited advice for NPR. If you are going to insist on giving a market quote with every newscast please include the up or down percentage that give your listeners some context.

Looking at America through the lens of the stock market not only is useless in forecasting major moves in the market itself it also blinds us to the conditions most citizens experience in their daily work and home lives.

In any case as even most CNBC anchors remind us the stock market is not the economy. Some like to joke that stock market declines have predicted nine of the last four recessions.

Nor is the average citizen likely to be directly affected by daily changes in the price of stocks.

As of 2013, the top 1% of households owned 38% of stock market wealth. As of 2013, the top 10% own 81% of stock wealth, the next 10% (80th to 90th percentile) own 11% and the bottom 80% own 8%.

Changes in the price of bread and gasoline likely will have more effect on the typical citizen’s life. Nonetheless continual media obsession, especially on the part of the serious “objective” media like NPR, leads to disproportionate concern with the health of the stock market. It also promotes and helps sustain the core belief that markets are the source of all truth. The alteration of pensions from defined benefit to defined contribution makes workers’ lives more insecure even as the 401k accounts helps cement faith in or at least acquiescence to the demands of the market.

Of course NPR executives likely know what they are doing. The top 2-10 percent of the income distribution is heavily influenced by the stock market. (I leave out the top 1% as a considerable portion of their wealth derives from private equity, which is not traded on public exchanges.) These investors, whom the blog Naked Capitalism calls the professional managerial class, are also likely a good part of NPR listenership. These would be attorneys, physicians, dentists, engineers, accountants, tenured full professors, MBAs, architects. In the perhaps naïve hope that NPR might be interested in or willing to expand its base I would like to suggest a few statistics that might replace some of those multiple daily reports on the stock market.

Every month at least one of the stock market reports should be replaced with the real unemployment rate. That number would include part time workers seeking full time and discouraged workers. At the end of February it stood at about 11%, almost double the headline figure. Interestingly at the height of the world financial crisis the real unemployment rate reached 22%, only 3 percent less than the peak of the Great Depression. (This may be an apples and oranges comparison as I have been unable to establish the l930s definition of unemployment. Nonetheless the Great Recession is surely well named.)

Just as important as whether one has a job is what is happening on that job. Periodic news releases from the Bureau of Labor Statistics include data on occupational health and safety. The following highlights could be updated and presented several times a year.

Here are some statistics from the year before the pandemic: ”·The 5,333 fatal occupational injuries in 2019 represents the largest annual number since 2007.·A worker died every 99 minutes from a work-related injury in 2019.·Fatalities among workers age 55 and over increased 8 percent from 1,863 in 2018 to 2,005 in 2019,which is the largest number ever recorded for this age group.·Hispanic or Latino worker fatalities were up 13 percent to 1,088 in 2019–a series high since 1992.·Workplace deaths due to suicides (307) and unintentional overdoses (313) increased slightly in 2019.·Fatalities in the private construction industry increased 5 percent to 1,061–the largest total since 2007.·Driver/sales workers and truck drivers incurred 1,005 fatal occupational injuries, the highest since this series began in 2003.”

I do not claim these numbers represent the whole truth that policy makers must embrace. They do evoke important questions that ought to be part of debates about such questions as who does essential work and with what risks.

Finally, rather than stock market prices I would rather be regularly informed about hunger in America. The long lines of even middle class citizens in food pantry lines warrants efforts to quantify even if only provisionally

Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, projects that “42 million people,including 13 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2021 ….Many people who have been most impacted by the pandemic were food insecure or at risk of food insecurity before COVID-19 and are facing greater hardship since COVID”-

Feeding America also projects that the rate of food insecurity for Black families will be twice that for Whites.

Looking at America through the lens of the stock market not only is useless in forecasting major moves in the market itself it also blinds us to the conditions most citizens experience in their daily work and home lives. Media that claim more depth in their coverage must do better.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Buell


John Buell has a PhD in political science, taught for 10 years at College of the Atlantic, and was an Associate Editor of The Progressive for ten years. He lives in Southwest Harbor, Maine and writes on labor and environmental issues. His most recent book, published by Palgrave in August 2011, is "Politics, Religion, and Culture in an Anxious Age." 

Friday, May 14, 2021

New subscriber service for MarkhamsSlowNews

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David G. Markham


Offshore wind farms becoming an increasingly bigger thing.

From the New York Times on 05/11/21:

Construction on the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm is expected to begin this summer, after the Biden administration gave final approval Tuesday to a project it hopes will herald a new era of wind energy across the United States.

The Vineyard Wind project calls for up to 84 turbines to be installed in the Atlantic Ocean about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Together, they could generate about 800 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 400,000 homes. The administration estimates that the work will create about 3,600 jobs.

The project would dwarf the scale of the country’s two existing wind farms, off the coasts of Virginia and Rhode Island. Together, they produce just 42 megawatts of electricity.

In addition to Vineyard Wind, a dozen other offshore wind projects along the East Coast are now under federal review. The Interior Department has estimated that by the end of the decade, some 2,000 turbines could be churning in the wind along the coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

For more click here.

Climate change and the environment is one of the topics that MarkhamsSlowNews tracks. To keep up with our articles subscribe to the blog to get daily notices when new articles are posted.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Donald Trump's social media followers decreasing.

Four months after former President Donald Trump was banished from most mainstream social media platforms, he returned to the web last Tuesday with “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” essentially a blog for his musings.

A week since the unveiling, social media data suggests things are not going well. 

The ex-president’s blog has drawn a considerably smaller audience than his once-powerful social media accounts, according to engagement data compiled with BuzzSumo, a social media analytics company.

 CNBC analysis of Trump’s tweets in January found his most-liked tweets spread disinformation. But the conspiracy theories and name-calling that the former president has spread via his blog don’t seem to move the way they did when Trump benefited from the dual platforms of the White House and traditional social media. 

For more click here.

Editor's note:
I have added the bolding.
Is it a good thing that Americans no longer find lies and bullying entertaining. In bullying prevention programs, researchers find that the biggest antidote to bullying and lying is to deprive the bullier and liar and audience. Without an audience to play to these dysfunctional behaviors no longer are rewarded.

Here on MarkhamsSlowNews we track the use and abuse of the media as it functions in shedding light on the truth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Spain to experiment with 32 hour work week.

 Under the plans, an estimated 200 to 400 Spanish companies will voluntarily take part in the project by reducing their employees’ working week to 32 hours while keeping their salaries the same. The government will compensate participating businesses for any higher costs incurred by the changes, such as the need to hire additional staff or to reorganize scheduling and shift patterns. That investment will be financed through Spain’s share of the EU Coronavirus Recovery Fund.

For more click here.

Monday, May 10, 2021

I just bought a Guillotine bagel slicer.

 I just bought a Gullotine Bagel Slicer. I buy bagels by the dozen, slice them in half and throw them in the freezer where they will keep frozen for months. When I want a nice toasted bagel, I take one out of the freezer and pop it in the toaster. Smothered in butter or cream cheese or peanut butter and jelly or make a bagel sandwich with just about anything and you will experience a little bit of heaven on earth.

The domains of systemic racism

Editor's note:

I published  a separate blog for 1 1/2 years titled "Recognizing Systemic Racism." That blog is being discontinued and the articles are being republished here. To access all the articles on System Racism scroll down through the labels in the right hand pane and click on "systemic racism."

There is a  distinction between prejudice, discrimination, and racism. Using this triad,  racism refers to systemic, institutional or structural oppression, and subjugation to dominant populations by people of privilege..

Domains of systemic racism:
Health care 
Criminal justice
Social welfare
Political process participation e.g. voting and other forms of representation in various societal decision making groups.
Culture - arts, sports, community groups and recreational activities and organizations

Over the next several months and maybe a few years we will be studying how systemic racism operates in our culture in the US.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Covid-19 Trumpism Legacy

 In the absence of anything approaching an actual plan, all he has given the country is performative messaging. And that messaging has been a disaster. Trump is the single largest driver of coronavirus misinformation worldwide. He called it a hoax (it wasn't); he said it would magically go away (it didn't); he told people to inject bleach (don't); he mocked people for wearing masks (wear a mask); he said only older people die from the virus and children are immune (none of that is true). Even after he got Covid-19 and recovered—thanks to the socialized medicine taxpayers provided him—he refused to embrace basic science and reason; instead he ripped off his mask, parading about the White House balcony like some orange Übermensch. He ended his failed reelection campaign by barnstorming around the country holding superspreader events that are thought to have caused 30,000 infections and 700 deaths.


Trump's anti-science sociopathy has been embraced by many other political actors. His messaging, his attitude, his culture-war-mongering have filtered down throughout our country, to our national shame.


Even after he's removed from the White House (and he will be removed on January 20), Trump will continue to use the media—Twitter, Fox News, Newsmax—to poison the well against public health. There will be a vaccine for the coronavirus eventually, but there is no cure for what Trump has done to our society, no inoculation from the disinformation he spreads, and no way to bring back the lives he's already cost us.

Elie Mystal, "The Real Trump Surge, The Nation, Dec. 14/21, 2020

We will get past the Covid-19 pandemic probably in late 2021 and early 2022 but it will take much longer to get past the egocentric and ethnocentric gravity of the Trumpist level of consciousness. 

The best estimate is that 30% of the American population is stuck at this stage of development and it doesn't seem that many of these folks will further develop.

The 70% will have to learn ways to accommodate these folks or facilitate their development to a higher stage. There are many strategies to accomplish this. The first is to use legal and regulatory tools, but it will take a Charismatic leader to facilitate an interior growth in consciousness as well as the development of social institutions which support the effort..

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Lessons from the pandemic - The change to education

 While MOOCs massive open online courses where already a thing before the pandemic, the pandemic with its quarantining, social distancing, and classroom shutdowns accelerated the pace of their development and practice.

Here's a great TED video by Tyler Dewitt explaining the advantages to online learning.

What experiences and thoughts do you have with online learning?

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Making it easier to vote does not threaten election integrity

In statehouses across the country, hundreds of bills have been introduced to change how elections are run, who can vote and how they vote. Many of the bills sponsored by Republicans aim to undo changes election officials made in 2020 to make voting easier during the pandemic.

Those changes led to a record number of people voting last year. Yet the GOP bills would make voting harder. Their sponsors say it’s worth it because the proposed legislation would make elections more secure against fraud, writes political scientist Douglas Hess. Only one problem: There’s no evidence that making it easier to vote leads to more fraud.

For more click here.

To attempt to restrict voting is in direct violation of the fifth principle of Unitarian Universalism which is covenant together to affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.