Oct 17, 2011, 6:47 AM
Post #1 of 1
Earlier this year I wrote about society’s newfound trend to extend adolescence. A crucial effect of this trend is how it has affected reproductive behavior. Over the past several decades, birthrates have declined precipitously in the developed world. Demographers are calling this phenomenon “sub replacement fertility,” meaning that the population is actually declining. As this decline persists beyond a certain point it is deemed “irreversible,” as is the case with some low-birthrate European countries, like Greece and Spain.
A birthrate that sustains a population is deemed to be in excess of 2 successful births per woman. The excess births above the two are to account for infant mortality. Currently the birthrate in the United States is 2.06 successful births per woman. However, the rest of the developed world hasn’t exactly been pulling its weight in that regard. Germany, for instance, has had sub-replacement fertility since 1972. Its current birthrate stands at 1.41 births per woman, while Greece and other Eurozone nations have birthrates in the 1.3 per woman range. In today’s Greece 100 grandparents have only 42 grandchildren between them. The Canadian birthrate currently stands at just below 1.5 successful births per woman.
Certainly the low birth rate carries significant implications in one’s ability to retire as the number of workers supporting retired persons is on a steady decline, making it financially more difficult for governments to fulfill long held social contracts with their seniors.
On a more human scale this trend has resulted in an acute shortage of grandchildren. Whereas in days of yore the family tree was a magnificent structure that branched out in many directions, many of today’s family trees look more like a spindly sapling or an inverted pyramid, as four grand parents have two children, who in turn have one grandchild.
This is a troubling trend because it represents and experiential sea change. Previous generations in nearly all cultures have always had extended families. Certainly most individuals over the age of 50 today have experienced what we know as the “traditional family” in their formative years. Today, not so much, as the fragmentation of the family unit is redefining what the family is.
Today’s families tend to be smaller as that extended adolescent trend combined with freely available abortions are making for “older” and smaller young families with fewer of them. In addition, the divorce rate in the developed world now stands at somewhere north of 50%. Fewer marriages are going the distance, which results in more blended families as divorcees find new spouses, many of whom are also divorced. There seems to be some reluctance on the part of children from divorced homes to want to commit to a long-tem relationship that involves children, and fewer than ever young adults want to have children at all.
People who have grandchildren today should consider themselves fortunate, as demographics are demonstrating that more and more, grandchildren are becoming the exception, rather than the rule. Some years ago demographers were lauding the aging population as a monumental change in our culture. The shortage of grandchildren is something that few are talking about.
Klaus Rohrich is President and Creative Director of Taylor/Rohrich Associates Inc., a marketing and advertising firm that specializes in niche marketing retirement real estate developments
(This post was edited by klaus on Oct 17, 2011, 10:32 AM)