I don’t want to keep coming back to Canada, but I get away so infrequently, and I notice things. Here’s something else I noticed on our trip: Strollers everywhere. (With babies in ’em! Sometimes when you see them around here, they contain small dogs.) Canadian birth rates are looking about the same as they are for other western democracies, but by contrast with Michigan, the anecdotal street-noticing difference is profound.
If you keep your ear to the ground of conservative media, you hear a frequent drumbeat of concern about declining birth rates. (Certainly it’s behind the concerns over the Muslim influx in Europe — and eventually here.) All over the world, the rule is the same: The wealthier a country gets, the more birth rates drop, until childbearing levels out at just below replacement levels. A lot of this is common sense; while some people like a house full of kids, how soon we forget that for most women, for most of human history, children were a stopgap against genetic extinction, and then they were just something that arrived every year or so, and frequently didn’t survive. I read something recently about attitudes toward abortion, which posited that the full-throated “pro-life” movement didn’t come along until children weren’t at least partly an affliction upon their parents, especially their mothers.
Birth rates, and marriage rates, fell during the great recession. Again, it’s common sense, unless your head is clouded by ideology: When times are tough, babies are less affordable. (Ideologues think a new baby always means a fatter welfare check, so poor people say bring ’em on.)
So what do we need to do to boost birth rates among the middle class? Economic security. Also helpful: Parental leave, decent child care options, especially excellent preschool. Preschool puts kids on a fast track to a good early-childhood school experience, so it’s win-win. And what do we have now? Ideologues who say preschool is anti-family, and that the only person who can successfully raise a child is that child’s mother. Never mind that throughout human history, babies have been handed off to non-parental, even non-family adults, and human history has not crashed and burned as a result. Never mind that no one is advocating Romanian orphanage-style child care. If you even whisper that the government, any government, might have a role, not the only role, just a role to play in making life easier for parents, then you are advocating “warehousing” of children in “government facilities.”
My point being, the next time a conservative complains that women aren’t having enough babies, fish out your pocket mirror and hold it in their faces.
Do I have any linkage for you today? Don’t think so — so post your own.