Monday, October 6, 2014

Eating the Seed Corn of Society

Slate has an interesting article on fertility rates in America that becomes less interesting when the author, Sharon Lerner, offers policy prescriptions.  The discussion is over the fertility divide between professional and poor women.
Two new studies bring the contrasting reproductive profiles of rich and poor women into sharp relief. One, from the Guttmacher Institute, shows that the rates of unplanned pregnancies and births among poor women now dwarf the fertility rates of wealthier women, and finds that the gap between the two groups has widened significantly over the past five years. The other, by the Center for Work-Life Policy, documents rates of childlessness among corporate professional women that are higher than the childlessness rates of some European countries experiencing fertility crises.
In essence, childbirth in America is increasingly likely to occur to lower income (and unmarried) women.  While the article prescribes various remedies, the fact that feminist doctrine is more effectively inculcated in professional women is not mentioned.  Nor is the fact that poorest women experience an increase in disposable income when they have children.

Why are the facts of reproductive divergence problematic for our society?  From a purely biological perspective, women are the more fragile bearers of our species' genetic material.  Eggs are more perishable than sperm.  Gestation time necessarily limits the reproductive output of women.  This is why, historically, the survival of women was more highly valued than that of men during times of crisis.  (This also resonates with our gut instincts.)  We are selecting women to reproduce who typically have below average education and resources and fathers present to insure the future success of their offspring.  Further, professional women are waiting later in life to have children, which leads to its own set of problems.  Society would be better served if a social model other the failing one of feminism was in vogue that encouraged women to have babies at a younger age and delay entry into a profession until later in life.  One could argue that this limits the productivity of society, but what we are doing is essentially similar to a farmer in days of yore increasing his current income by selling his seed corn.  Unfortunately, the time horizon for our difficulties spans generations, not just years, so it is taking a while for the interlinked problems of falling marriage rates, lower male labor participation rates and childlessness among the upper classes to make themselves known.

I know from personal knowledge that your federal government is spending tax dollars allegedly going to defense research to encourage women in their teens to prepare to enter careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I never participated in such outreach and actively avoided it.  I will continue to do so as long we keep sending the message that careers are preferable to motherhood for women.

To be clear, I am not calling for any government action, just some neutrality on the issue and an opportunity for us to change the culture.

Photo courtesy of the United States Army.