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The world’s population is set to increase from the current figure of around 7.4 billion to nearly 10 billion by the year 2050. This enormous leap will primarily come from developing countries. The US population is expected to rise by 23% to nearly 400 million by then, but a lot of this growth is expected to be from an aging population living longer rather than increased birth rates. In actuality, the birth rates in the US and many other developed countries are tumbling. The falling birth rates and aging populations (sales of adult diapers in Japan will exceed those of baby diapers this year) will bring new challenges for America. Whilst the problems of global overpopulation will continue to impact everyone, with pressure for arable land, water and fuel causing global conflict and carbon emissions soaring, how will the slowing birth rates hit the US?
Population Patterns In America
The US census occurs every 10 years and it gives a very accurate measure of the country’s population. The census generally shows an increase in population each decade but since 2000 the rate of this increase has been dropping. The 2000 Census showed an increase in US population of 13% from the previous count but the 2010 rate had dropped to just under 10%, and the 2020 predictions are that this will have tumbled further to less than an 8% increase. The driving force behind this is the birth rate. The number of new children born in America in 2017 fell by a further 2% on the previous year on top of an existing pattern of decline. The numbers of children born was the lowest since 1987. Some see the proportion of the 3.8 million births belonging to teenagers being at an all time low as a silver lining to the news but this does little to offset the gloomy predictions of many.
Possible Reasons For The Drop
America has never been a world leader for a welfare state and its lack of universal healthcare that is free at the point of use is seen by some as out of step with the modern world – but these have been facts of life in America forever and so, despite the protests of some commentators, cannot be to blame for the current crisis. What has been reported to have changed is the reliance on the income of females in the home, without an accompanying change in attitude. More than 70% of American households need the mother’s income in order to get by, but these women still earn 29% less than men in the same jobs.
Combined with this, many women still complain about being penalized for getting pregnant, either directly through disciplinary procedures or indirectly due to not being able to take paid leave. Only 12% of those who work outside of civil service positions have access to paid leave. Families increasingly cannot afford for a mother to take the time off needed to have a baby. Those who can do not wish to do so as they still fear that it may have a negative impact on their promotional prospects. Many women are putting off having children until later in life so that they can focus on their careers but, tragically, in some cases, this never happens due to health issues or complications from using contraceptives such as some forms of intrauterine birth control devices.
The Implications Of The Drop
With fewer children being born and the US population set to continue to increase there is only one possible conclusion to draw – the population is aging. Surveys bare this conclusion out and it is terrifying. The bubble of citizens who will live longer than ever before sits atop an inverted pyramid of citizens. Each year, another layer is added to the pyramid from the bottom, and every year it becomes more unstable.
At some point, the working population of America will no longer be able to support the retired and aging population, and the pyramid will tumble. Already, firms are having to adapt their products and marketing strategies towards the so called “gray dollar” but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The drop in workforce numbers means that there is a smaller pool for employers to pick from and many key skilled positions are going unfilled. The economy of the developed world is gradually slowing and is unlikely to rise in the near future.
Dropping birth rates mean a decrease in new consumers and workers; meaning less money is being earned and spent. An aging population also brings with it an increase in healthcare spending and money required to be invested in pensions and social programs. Americans living longer was a good thing for everyone when we could afford it. Now, our most experienced and respected members of the community risk becoming a millstone around the neck of the young.
The world is suffering from overpopulation and the knock on effects of this threaten global security and the environment in catastrophic ways, yet America is faced with a very different threat. If the conditions don’t change to support an increase in birth rates, or immigration rates amongst working age families doesn’t increase, there will not be enough workers and consumers to keep the economy healthy. If something doesn’t change there is a very real crisis in the future for America both at home and abroad.
All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.