Monday, February 4, 2013

The disintegrating family and a book with ideas to combat it

Here are a couple things I saw today on the disintegrating family.

First off, did you see the WSJ's "America's Baby Bust" from the 2nd?  It reminded me a bit of Demographic Winter and population decline and the potential effects on society.
America's fertility rate began falling almost as soon as the nation was founded. In 1800, the average white American woman had seven children. (The first reliable data on black fertility begin in the 1850s.) Since then, our fertility rate has floated consistently downward, with only one major moment of increase—the baby boom. In 1940, America's fertility rate was already skirting the replacement level, but after the war it jumped and remained elevated for a generation. Then, beginning in 1970, it began to sink like a stone.
There's a constellation of reasons for this decline: Middle-class wages began a long period of stagnation. College became a universal experience for most Americans, which not only pushed people into marrying later but made having children more expensive. Women began attending college in equal (and then greater) numbers than men. More important, women began branching out into careers beyond teaching and nursing. And the combination of the birth-control pill and the rise of cohabitation broke the iron triangle linking sex, marriage and childbearing.
. . .Conservatives like to think that if we could just provide the right tax incentives for childbearing, then Americans might go back to having children the way they did 40 years ago. Liberals like to think that if we would just be more like France—offer state-run day care and other programs so women wouldn't have to choose between working and motherhood—it would solve the problem. But the evidence suggests that neither path offers more than marginal gains.
As I read, I, too, wondered what could make people want to have more children.  My initial thought was that we're too far gone for that.  It's so easy not to have children; we're too selfish; we don't even get married anymore!  (So why would we have children??)  Our world is generally not even family-friendly.  We worship the individual.
If we're going to reverse this decline [in population growth], we'll need to reintroduce into American culture the notion that human flourishing ranges wider and deeper than calculations of mere happiness.
I've been thinking so much about happiness lately and have been wanting to write a post on it.  I'm even trying to have the mindset that life is NOT about happiness, but is about WORK.  I think I'm actually more content when I set my expectation lower regarding personal satisfaction/happiness.

I also found this one interesting, too:
Higher education dampens fertility in all sorts of ways. It delays marriage, incurs debt, increases the opportunity costs of childbearing and significantly increases the expense of raising a child. If you doubt that the economics of the university system are broken, consider this: Since 1960, the real cost of goods in nearly every other sector of American life has dropped. Meanwhile, the real cost of college has increased by more than 1,000%.
If college were another industry, everyone would be campaigning for reform.

I also read today, the intro to Fearless Parenting about actually raising our kids to become mature, responsible adults.  Maybe I can read the book someday!

It’s not that as parents we don’t try. We hover over our kids twenty four hours a
day, we protect our kids from every imaginable harm, we cry with our kids when
they’re hurting, we provide our kids with the best of everything, we run interference
for our kids when they’re in trouble, we do science fair projects for our kids
when they go to bed and we throw ticker-tape parades for them when they graduate
from second grade. We’re doing everything for our kids except the one key
thing we should have been doing all along: prepare them for adulthood.
. . .Instead of teaching them how to struggle, we eliminate struggle from their
lives. Instead of teaching them how to persevere, we tell them not to try so hard.
Instead of teaching them to do without, we teach them all they have to do is ask.
Instead of teaching them to be adventurous we make them risk adverse. Instead
of teaching them how to succeed, we teach them to be happy because we’ve succeeded.
. . .We can teach them to value honor and integrity over “cool” and “sexy.”  

With the way things our with our society, our government, our economy, sometimes I wish we could just go colonize a new country and start over, only there's no where to go.  I wonder what we're in for as no one can seem to come up with any good plan to fix "things," and then even if they do come up with a plan, no one can agree on it.