Last week there was a series of news reports about birth rates. Teen birth rates are down in 2009, to the lowest teen birth rate numbers since health officials started tracking the numbers in 1940.
Prior to the 1960’s, most people lived on farms and small towns and married younger. Most families had a father and a mother who stayed married. Children are an economic benefit to farmers, and people learned to work alongside mom and dad and other family members. But today, most people live in cities and children are an economic drain. People marry later, if at all, and many marriages do not last very long. Dad is often not around as much, and children born to teenagers end up poor, without stable parents, and often end up being trouble for everyone. When uneducated unwed teens have babies, society often pays a price. So lower teen birth rates today is a good thing.
However, there is a negative side to these numbers. The overall birth rate for all age groups is down also, down for America and all western nations. Nations require 2.1 births per couple to maintain themselves, and when the birth rate drops significantly below this, as it has in Western Europe, the culture cannot maintain itself over time, and the slow collapse of the nation is inevitable. Lower birth rates take a long time to collapse a nation, but the outcome is inevitable. Societies must have enough babies to reproduce themselves or they will not survive. Do you want to know which cultures will be major players in the world in 100 years? Look at which cultures are having babies.
In recent years the US was holding its own, with hispanics and immigrants having enough babies to keep our population stable. But even this has started to drop. Experts speculate that the recent economic recession played a major role.
The overall trend of people not having babies is not good. My father’s family had nine kids, my wife’s had five. Most of my extended family have no more than one or two children.
Part of the reason people today have fewer babies is that we want to maintain our wealthy lifestyles. Children cost money, and we do not want to be burdened with the economic costs. Children also take time, energy, and stress, all of which could be avoided if we just do not have kids so we can have money to go enjoy ourselves. But I maintain that this view is rather selfish and short-sighted.
Children are a blessing and a heritage. The most joy I have is in raising my children and seeing them succeed. But an even greater joy is in raising a child who is a strong Christian, who has a sense of purpose, and can go and help people whose lives are crumbling. By spending a thrid of my life raising Christian children, I am able to pass along benefits to untold numbers of people in future generations. Nothing else I do can have this amount of benefit to as many people or as much joy to myself. Without passing along a heritage through our children to future generations, our lives are but a vapor. Without children, all the selfish things we would spend our time on will turn out to be empty to us, and we’ll soon be forgotten, as those who came before us have mostly been forgotten.
So I encourage those young married couples out there, especially the Christian ones, to have babies. Anything worthwhile takes time, and children are worthwhile.