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no child policy
Global Flight from Family Threatens Elderly

The global demographic crisis may be even worse than we thought. Not only is the number of people getting married before age 50 dropping precipitously; divorce is also rising rapidly. The most important (and perhaps most troubling) trend, however, is the rise of childlessness. According to Nicholas Eberstat at AEI (h/t Tyler Cowen), the number of childless households is very high in parts of Europe and Asia. “In Western Europe,” Eberstat writes, “nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%.” He lists several different statistics along these lines, and then notes:

That same flight [from the family] also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.

Scholars are right to identify reversing this “flight from the family” as a key cultural priority. But even if that were achievable, there would still be an immediate problem of how to care for the elderly, and there’s no simple solution for this right now. This problem is exacerbated in the US by the fact that we tend to seriously undervalue how extensive our needs will be later in life, and so don’t take even modest steps to improve our preparations. Unless something dramatic happens in the coming years, this demographic transition is likely to bring with it a period of severe strain and hardship for many.

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  • S.C. Schwarz

    We in the West are conducting a bold experiment: We’re going to see how civilization does if we do away with religion and do away with the family. So far the results don’t look promising.

    • gabrielsyme

      Why, o why, do progressives never apply the precautionary principle to social and political change?

    • fastrackn1

      We also seem to be conducting an experiment to see how much we can put material things, and the pursuit of them, in front of everything, including family.
      It is not looking promising….

  • FriendlyGoat

    It’s true that because of recent booms in population there are short-term bubble problems to work through, but shouldn’t we be somewhat relieved if sheer growth in numbers of humans slows down? A very old earth with an accumulation of only 1,000,000,000 people at 1850 is undergoing a lot of stress to grow to 9,000,000,000 by 2050——a mere 200 years. What’s wrong with stabilizing?

    As for us older folks, the only real answer is developing ways for the more-able elderly to literally take care of the frail elderly—–more than now is happening.

    • fastrackn1

      FG, you are right about the fact that we should ‘be relieved’. I have always thought that over-population will be the thing that will cause the greatest problems to this planet, and likely the thing that will bring the demise of mankind someday, one way or another.
      Unfortunately the slowing of child births is only happening in a small percentage of the world’s population. Most of the world is continuing at full speed.

      • FriendlyGoat

        True, unfortunately. We need contraceptives for women in the developing world and/or vasectomies for any men anywhere who will accept the idea.

        • fastrackn1

          As a person who has spent quite a bit of time in some of the poorest countries in the world, I can say that the biggest problem is not being able to provide the contraceptives, it is changing the cultures to accept any contraception at all.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I feel sure you are correct in saying that is a huge segment of the problem. Not that men will accept vasectomies, either, but the criticism of women using birth control is a reason we should be working on the men first. Once and done is cool. (I’ve had mine for 40 years).

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