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ATLANTA (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed U.S. birth rates declined by 2% in 2018.
The revelations reflect declines in other countries, prompting concerns both spiritual and economic. Birth rates in the United States have been in decline every year, with one exception, since 2007.
The spiritual perils of declining birth rates are a perceived rejection to the openness of life by the use of contraceptives and practice of abortion. Rather than a loving act of procreation, sex is rendered merely an act of physical recreation.
According to the CDC, there were 3.8 million births in 2018, which is approximately 59 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44) with a more pronounced fertility decline in younger women.
To replace the current U.S. population, the average number of children born per woman should be 2.1. Reality falls short of that number at 1.7.
This alarming trend isn't exclusive to the United States. For example, writing in The Federalist on July 26, Emma Elliott Freire reports Hungary's population shortfall is so great the country has initiated a program that loans the U.S. equivalent of $35,000 to young couples in the stages of beginning a family. If the couple decides to have a third child, the $35,000 loan is forgiven. The country also offers subsidies up to $9,000 per family to purchase a seven-seat vehicle.
Hungary's birth rate is currently 1.49 children per woman — whereas the average rate in Europe is 1.59 births per woman. Like the United States, the European replacement rate is an average 2.1 births per woman.
Freire notes social and economic hazards of birth rates lower than replacement rates.
"Hungary already has a labor shortage," she wrote. "Their people are moving abroad in search of higher-paying jobs."
She continues: "Yet someone has to work and pay taxes to fund Hungary's generous social welfare programs, not to mention pensions for the growing number of retirees."
Freire reports Viktor Orbán, Hungary's prime minister, "rejects mass immigration as a solution. Partly that is because the parts of the world that currently have higher fertility levels have comparatively poor infrastructure, workforce development, and education levels."
She explains: "In recent decades, Western countries have a poor track record of assimilating foreigners into Western culture and economies. This means such immigrants are often not prepared to contribute to advanced economies, which in many countries has fostered resentment and continued poverty."
Church Militant reported in May that Italy's population is expected to contract by 10% by 2065.
The article continued: "Italy is ranked 212 out of 223 countries for live births per 1,000 people, standing at 8.6, which is dependent on the fertility rate of the country and the age structure of the population."
In a 2006 essay for CBS News, Jonathon Last wrote:
It is impossible to predict with certainty the side effects of population decline. But there is good reason to believe it will be bad for us. Innovation will suffer as the demand for nearly everything (save health care) slackens. The welfare state is unsustainable in a contracting, top-heavy population. And instead of producing windfalls of excess supply, economies will probably contract. As Livi-Bacci observes, "Historically, areas depopulated or in the process of losing population have almost always been characterized by backward economies."
And then there is the question of national character. As the Asia Times noted recently with respect to the effect population decline is having on Europe: "A people without progeny will not accept a single military casualty. If this generation is the last, there will be no children for whom to sacrifice. Today's Europeans value their distractions and amusements more than they do prospective children.
The supposed benefits of population decline are a mirage. The real question is whether falling populations will lead Western civilization to something like the fall of Rome.
Last also quotes conservative writer Mark Steyn: "There is no precedent in human history for economic growth on declining human capital."
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