"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

A Valentine Wish: Repair the State of Our Unions

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 6
Publish Date: 
Thu, 02/14/2013


“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage,” goes the rhyme.  Unfortunately, in large swaths of American society, this rhyme is playing in reverse, with dire consequences for lower-income Americans.


Given five decades of deteriorating marriage trends, it appears Americans concur with H.L. Menken who joked, “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who’d want to live in an institution?” Since 1960, the percentage of married Americans plunged from 72 percent to 51 percent last year, a record low. Meanwhile, babies born to unwed mothers skyrocketed from 4 percent in 1960 to 41 percent in 2011, another ominous record considering out-of-wedlock children are 82 percent more likely to suffer poverty and other social ills. 


However, Think Again before assuming Americans, like Menken, believe “The longest sentence you can form with two words is ‘I do’.”


A 2010 Pew Research/Time Magazine survey concluded that the institution of marriage “remains revered and desired.” Though marriage isn’t “as necessary as it used to be,” the study reveals: married people are significantly happier with their family lives; seven-in-ten 18 to 29-year olds want to marry; and 77 percent of Americans believe marriage makes raising a family easier, which remains a “very important” reason to marry.  If marriage is so revered, why aren’t more Americans marrying and having in-wedlock children?


The Pew study confirms what Charles Murray chronicles in his best-selling book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” American society is becoming as socially stratified as the vintage English world of “Downton Abbey.” Whereas in 1960, Americans shared bedrock moral values, behaviors and even neighborhoods, irrespective of class and education, today we’re separated into cultural and income enclaves with profoundly differing values and practices — upper-class “Belmont” neighborhoods where college-educated white-collar elites reside, and “Fishtown” where less-educated working-classes live.


“It’s not the existence of classes that is new,” Murray contends, “but the emergence of classes that diverge on core behaviors and values.” As Fishtown’s civil society atrophied, its residents suffered joblessness, family instability, poverty, government-dependency, crime and unhappiness. Meanwhile, cocooned Belmonters work, invest, marry, raise children, volunteer in the community, practice a religion – they prosper. To recover, Fishtown needs a civic Great Awakening to revive America’s original foundations of family, vocation, community, and faith. 


More marriage and family formation is also needed to counter another grave challenge – declining fertility. After decades of deteriorating demographic trends, America needs more babies, asserts Jonathan Last in his new book, “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster.” Since low birthrates are infectious, “there’s no precedent in recorded history of societies experiencing long-term peace and prosperity in the face of declining fertility and shrinking population.”


Low fertility and aging societies are less entrepreneurial, economically dynamic, and secure because risk-averse older people seek to preserve -- not invest -- capital; a shrinking base of workers must support ever-growing retiree expenditures; when older majorities disallow entitlement cuts requiring tax increases on the younger, it makes having babies (future taxpayers) less affordable; entitlements crowd out defense spending.


Notwithstanding the explosion of out-of-wedlock babies in Fishtown, America hasn’t sustained a fertility rate above the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman since the 1960s. In 2011, it hit a record low 1.93. Consequently, America’s median age rose from 29.5 in 1960 to 37 today. Meanwhile, the ratio of workers to retirees shrank from 40 in 1946 to 2.9 today. 


Though foreboding, America’s prospects are better than the rapidly aging nations of East Asia and Europe where decades of sub-replacement fertility rates are causing dramatic population contractions. Ironically, fertility decline was already a global phenomenon in 1968 when “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich predicted overpopulation would trigger imminent mass starvation.


Today, 97 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with declining fertility.  To avert “turning into a decaying nation,” and facing a 1.3 fertility rate and devastating population declines, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited the trio Boys II Men to romance Russians into Valentine’s Day baby making.


In Japan -- where the fertility rate has been sub-1.5 since 1995 -- more adult diapers than baby diapers are sold and the economy has been stagnant for decades.  With a median age of 45 and 2.6 workers per retiree (falling to 1.2 by 2050), spending on the elderly has exploded Japan’s debt-to-GDP to 229 percent. Last month, Japan’s new Finance Minister made headlines when he told a social security reform committee that the elderly should “hurry up and die.”


To avoid these economic and societal death rattles, America needs more marriages and babies – in that order. With an “ideal fertility rate” of 2.5 (according to Gallup), Americans actually want more babies, and as the Pitt/Jolie children attest, kids prefer married parents. 


Think Again -- Wouldn’t it be wonderful to renew these commitments on Valentine’s Day?

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I am acutely aware that not

I am acutely aware that not all Belmonters/Fishtowners are as described in your column. However, as you just lumped them all into stark categories, for this reply, so will I. And quite frankly, the name you have given each is abhorrent to

So Fishtown is made up of people who have no jobs, no morals, don't go to church and are lazy, unhappy criminals.
Belmont is made up of people who have strong morals, work hard, practice a religion, volunteer in the community
and stay married.

Well, it's good to get this cleared up, and it makes me Think Again, for sure. Because in my experience, there are
people in Fishtown who work two or three jobs, happily raise conscious children, go to church and do all this against
great odds. They clean the Belmonters' houses for low pay while the Belmonters spend $600 for a haircut and
$200,000 for a handbag. And they pay the Fishtowners, who were not lucky enough to be born into money, minimum
wage with no benefits.

As for population, fact is, there are more than 25,000, (that works out to one every four seconds) of the world's
population who do in fact starve to death each day. Each day. And that is after we have polluted our food to grow
faster, such that we don't know what is in it anymore.

You might remember that in the late '70s, France went on a big crusade to entice its population to have more babies
so it would have a bigger work force. Then in the late '90s, there were riots by 20‐somethings because there were
not enough jobs for them.

The earth is a finite planet. It has a carrying capacity. Some people think we have reached it, and some don't. Ms.
Sturm, your claim that 97 percent of the population lives in a declining population is unequivocally and factually
untrue, as is your claim that a declining population is not good.

Please don't Think Again — just read more and study more and learn more

Oh, and another point. As a

Oh, and another point.

As a psychologist, I've had many a childlike female client with that immature reasoning that having a child will bring happiness and meaning...however, it is only a disguise for wanting someone to emotionally caretake them, which inevitably becomes the role of the child...who deserves nothing less than to have two MARRIED adults in his/her life who are emotionally caretaking EACHOTHER, so that the child can be a child and flourish!! not that there aren't plenty of marriages wherein the children become emotional caretakers of their parents, but I find it is far less frequent. but I'm sure I don't have to go on about that to a happily married lady like yourself!

Absolutely fascinating data,

Absolutely fascinating data, not to mention a very brave article...thx for sticking your neck out and stating the truth!!

What needs to be acknowledged

What needs to be acknowledged is in the US, 55,000,000 babies have been aborted over the last 40 years.  That's at least a couple generations gone!  The US & the rest of the world have become greedy consumers unwilling to be open to life & the importance of commitment & marriage & family.  It's a sad commentary on man.

Your excellent article was

Your excellent article was most thought provoking.. Unfortunately, it is totally true.
Hopefully, our Republican party examines the demographics of our nation  and acts accordingly. As dismal as our reproduction numbers are, imagine what they would be if we deleted the hispanic and black  numbers.

May God’s richest blessings

May God’s richest blessings fall all over you.

It is a wonderful article in its own right. Considering that “Single-mother home” is the leading indicator of whether a young man might go to prison, this is probably the largest single issue facing us today. And the LameStream media are not even talking about the tip of this iceberg. They are afraid of being called “racist.”

I am a USMC Vietnam veteran, father of 2 lovely daughters, grandfather of 5 wonderful young people, a retired computer nerd, and currently serve as a Chaplain at the local VA Hospital, where I see the ravages to our society of “baby-daddy” with 7 children by as many women.

Again, bless you for your efforts. May your tribe increase!

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