Storks Don't Take Orders From the State
June 21, 2023
It’s 2007. Spider-Man 3 is the top grossing film at the box office. Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” is the biggest hit song. American Idol is the most watched TV show.
It was also the last time that the United States was at replacement level fertility, which is 2.1 children born per woman. In the years following, through the ups and downs of the great recession, the 2016 election, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate has fallen to 1.66 children per woman. When you zoom out, you’ll see that American birth rates have been falling for decades. But this is far from the phenomenon isolated to the United States. The 2020 fertility rate in the U.K. was 1.6. In Germany it was 1.5. Finland hit 1.4. Denmark and Sweden were both at 1.7. In South Korea, it’s a shocking 0.81.
In response to these long-run trends, some have advocated pro-natalist government policies to incentivize more reproduction, or to at least smooth the way for people who want to have more kids.
But are the policies effective?
Elizabeth Nolan Brown, senior editor at Reason magazine, says “no.” In the cover story for the June 2023 issue of Reason, Brown surveys the flagging international reproductive landscape and the government policies that have been enacted to address that problem. In the end, she advocates, at a minimum, not panicking.
Today, Eric Kohn talks to Elizabeth Nolan Brown about the falling birthrates, failing pro-natalist policies, and how we should think about a world when fewer and fewer people are expecting.
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