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Forsaking The Family, Surrendering Civilization

The US Census Bureau has a new report on young adulthood in America (PDF) [1], and how it has changed since 1975. This finding jumped out at me:

Source: US Census Bureau

Stunning. Less than half of Americans aged 18-34 say marriage and family are part of being an adult. All the other factors have to do with achieving personal autonomy. To be an adult, then, is to be free to exercise one’s will independently of obligations to others, including spouse and children. To choose spouse and children — formerly the most distinctive marks of adulthood — is now considered ancillary to adulthood by most American adults.

This is not a culture that cares to reproduce itself. It is a culture that lives in the everlasting present. The most important thing that every generation must do is produce the next generation. Not everyone is called to marriage and family life, of course, but most people have to understand themselves as so called, or we die off. We have created a society in which people have forgotten that lesson.

This didn’t start yesterday. In his 1947 classic Family And Civilization [2], Harvard sociologist Carle C. Zimmerman examined the changing role of the family throughout history, going back to antiquity. He wrote, of the US in the postwar era:

Parents must now try to rear a family under a social and legal system adjusted to those couples who do not want the paraphernalia of familism — common income, expenses, children, union for perpetuity, or serious familistic obligations. In our modern Western society the forgotten person is the man or woman who honestly and sincerely wants to be a parent. This affects our whole social system; it affects all the practicalities of life, from renting a house to economic advancement under our different forms of bureaucracy. If there are children, renting a house is difficult, changing jobs is difficult, social activities are difficult. In the words of Bacon, to have children is to give “hostages to fortune,” and one is no longer a free bargaining agent.

Zimmerman says further:

When the United States has exhausted the surplus population of the French-Canadians and the Mexicans — almost the only fertile peoples of the Western world now available to us — we too will begin the grand finale of the crisis.

This was written in 1947. In the 1960s, Quebec went through the “Quiet Revolution,” which took it from having the highest birthrate in Canada to the lowest. Today, the birthrate in Quebec is once again the highest in Canada … but still well below the replacement rate.

Mexico’s fertility rate began to collapse around 1970s. Today it is slightly above the US rate, and just at replacement rate. But it is expected to decline further. [3]

Zimmerman continues:

There is little left now within the family or the moral code to hold this family together. Mankind has consumed not only the crop, but the seed for the next planting as well. Whatever may be our Pollyanna inclination, this fact cannot be avoided. Under any assumptions, the implications will be far reaching for the future not only of the family but of our civilization as well. The question is no longer a moral one; it is social. It is no longer familistic; it is cultural. The very continuation of our culture seems to be inextricably associated with this nihilism in family behavior.

Zimmerman was a social scientist. He was not a religious man. His study found the same cause in the fall of the Greek empire and the Roman empire in the West: decay of the family system, and all that followed it. Zimmerman said that there is no such thing as cultural determinism; that we have it within our power to avoid the fates of ancient Greece and Rome. But will we? Zimmerman:

The only thing that seems certain is that we are again in one of those periods of family decay in which civilization is suffering internally from the lack of a basic belief in the forces which make it work. The problem has existed before. The basic nature of this illness has been diagnosed before. After some centuries, the necessary remedy has been applied. What will be done now is a matter of conjecture. We may do a better job than was done before; we may do a worse one.

Again, he wrote in 1947; from the point of view of 2016, his question has been answered in the negative.

Zimmerman said that with the exception of the Christian churches — which he said was unpopular in his day (1947!) — there are no forces in the West fighting back against the decay of the family structure. Today, in 2016, can we say that the churches are still in the fight? I don’t think so — and if they are, they are a puny counterforce to the overwhelming atomism and self-centeredness of popular culture.

There’s something else, too. Mary Eberstadt has a theory that as goes the family, so goes religion [4], because the family is the strongest agent of transmission of religious belief. Indeed, sociologist Christian Smith has found that the strongest predictor of whether or not a child will still be religious in adulthood is whether or not his parents were religiously observant. If the family continues to atomize, to break apart, it stands to reason that religious belief will continue to decline.

The statistics with which I opened this post — the fact that most young adult Americans see marriage and family as incidental to adulthood — is a sign. It’s a big sign. A lot of Christians want to dismiss The Benedict Option [5] as alarmism. Sorry, but these folks are Zimmerman’s Pollyannas. If it’s not too late to stop our fate, then people had better speak up, and speak up with enough volume to overcome the din of popular culture. If it’s not too late to stop our fate, then Christians had better prepare themselves, their families, and their communities for a future that Zimmerman, drawing on the post-imperial Roman example, says will be tumultuous and unpleasant:

Over a period of two centuries, this confused picture rectified itself; but Western society was not very orderly or peaceful for several centuries more.

Zimmerman — again, not a religious believer — said that historically, the morals and influence of the Christian church in the West restored society after its Roman collapse. Today, that influence is the only thing that gives us long-term hope for the future. But if the Church is going to be around in that far-off time to give hope to refugees floating atop the waves of liquid modernity, we Christians have to act now to prepare for the Dark Age upon us.

UPDATE: Corporate America, popular culture:

132 Comments (Open | Close)

132 Comments To "Forsaking The Family, Surrendering Civilization"

#1 Comment By Gretchen On April 21, 2017 @ 2:30 am

Zimmerman wrote in 1946 that the US was entering a demographic winter when nobody has children. The Baby Boom started in 1947 and Americans spent the next 20 years pumping out babies at historic rates. This guy is not only wrong, but epically, incredibly wrong. Why is he being quoted as anything but somebody who didn’t see what was up next?

[NFR: You’re right — he *did* miss the Baby Boom. But that was just a blip in the overall trend he describes. — RD]

#2 Comment By Diarmuid On April 21, 2017 @ 2:52 am

Family making does not mean you are the one responsible for creating the future. This is a weak argument. There are enough children in the world for that. The rest of us educate, rather than have children. Pro-procréation, pro-birth is crazy in a world where we can’t sustain all the children already here.

#3 Comment By JonF On April 21, 2017 @ 6:02 am

Re: They just knew less back then. I think what has changed is that there is now an enormous amount of research out there about how to manipulate customers and employees and how to get every last penny out of them.

I’m not sure I agree. Miserliness and abusiveness to employees has always existed. Hence the character of Ebenezar Scrooge. Hence also the rise of the labor movement originally.
for a short while social norms changed enough where certain practices were no longer acceptable. And then they changed back.

#4 Comment By JonF On April 21, 2017 @ 6:14 am

Re: but Rod’s point, that the disengagement from having children as an automatic part of growing up, connecting with a beloved, and having that love encompass new life, is also significant.

I think Rod is putting too much weight on a survey with skewed wording. A survey that asked outright “Would you like to get married and have children?” would find a very large majority of positive responses because most people do want that. What the survey Rod cites asks is if this is part of BECOMING an adult, and few people think that now. And for good reason: people are marrying and having kids much later than the legal boundary that makes them adults (for good and necessary reasons as others have pointed out). So yes, marriage and parenthood are no longer part of the adulting process in the same sense that graduating from school, getting a job, casting one’s first vote and being able to legally buy beer are. Doesn’t mean people have given up on them. They just aren’t the adult rite of passage they were for a couple of generations after WWII– and as someone else pointed out that actually a return to older historical norms when you had to be totally settled and some years beyond legal adulthood before you started a family.

#5 Comment By Thrice A Viking On April 21, 2017 @ 9:41 am

Rod, did you write this earlier, and just submit it today? I’m wondering because I believe that you wrote the year as “2016” twice. Also, a majority does not need to want kids to maintain or increase the population. A substantial minority could, if they have enough of the little tykes.

In general, I sympathize more with those who want a smaller population than those who want a stable or increasing one. However, new policies would have to be put into place for such matters as Social Security and Medicare, now so dependent on a working population outnumbering the non-working. That might be quite a thorny problem, given retirees’ skepticism about changes to “their” favorite programs.

This reminds me of a datum that I read in the late 60s or early 70s on the then-declining age of first marriage. Around then, or perhaps a few years prior to it (I don’t recall for sure), the average age of grooms was a little over 22, of brides a bit more than 20. This was contrasted with the averages for married couples in the late 19th or early 20th century (again, I don’t remember exactly), which were several years later in life for brides and grooms alike. And remember that the earlier contingent was dealing with a shorter lifespan. So, the pendulum can swing back, I’d guess.

As I already declared my preferences as to demographic growth vs. population decline, I might as well also say that I side with those who would like a greater number of well-paying jobs, and ones with security. However, as a person who’s been retired for a few years, I don’t know as much about it as I should, except through reading.

Speaking of things I don’t know, in this case at all: Wet One, what is “MGTOW”?

#6 Comment By Surly On April 21, 2017 @ 10:34 am

Several people have (rightly in my opinion) tied the lack of family wage jobs to the collapse in family formation. If you want families, quit insisting that everybody go to college and create paths to stable employment for those in their early ’20’s. Technical education, apprenticeships and eliminating student debt for those who do want higher education would go a long way toward reversing these trends.

#7 Comment By mrscracker On April 21, 2017 @ 10:39 am

Brendan from Oz,
Yes, I ve heard before that data shows early marriage and large families were not the norm throughout history but pretty much everything I see in family history and history in general points to the opposite conclusion.
Folks didn’t live very long. If you wanted to see your children grow up or know your grandchildren, you had to start early.
The great majority of my female ancestors were married in their teens. One at age 12 and at least two others at 15. One great grandmother was married at 15,widowed and remarried at 17 and went on to have 15 children. Others had 8 to 14 children. I doubt that was unique . And infant mortality and infectious disease being what they were back then necessitated larger families in the hopes at least some children would survive to adulthood.

#8 Comment By Debbie On April 21, 2017 @ 10:56 am

Paid maternity leave and childcare subsidies have not necessarily increased the birthrate in countries that do this. You just have to look at the low birthrate in western countries to see this. Instead, it encourages women to see careers as being the thing society values, and they don’t have more than one or two children even with these benefits.

Lowering the population of the world perhaps sounds like a good idea in the long term; however, it could cause a lot of chaos in the short term. What happens when a large percentage of the population is over 65, and there are not enough workers to keep everything running? Even with automation, will we have enough people to run seniors’ homes and hospitals? I predict that there will be a large push to euthanize older people, whether they want it or not. Property values will decrease (maybe not a bad thing), but seniors will be unable to sell their homes and move into places where they will get the care that they need. Also, if we don’t have young people, will western society be vulnerable to people who do? Will countries with younger populations invade western countries, in violent ways instead of peaceful ways like legal immigration? We may lose the ability to protect our countries.

Also, while having children later may mean parents are more mature and are more stable financially, it doesn’t always follow that it makes them better parents and better at marriage. People who are older when they marry are more set in their ways and may find the selflessness demanded by marriage and family harder to deal with. I have seen this first hand in some of my friends and family. Marriage and family is about self-sacrifice; this is a concept largely missed by people in the west who are intent on self-fulfillment.

#9 Comment By will On April 21, 2017 @ 11:23 am

I share your concern regarding the cultural marxist assault on culture, religion family. Since the 60s it has strengthened exponentially and is now life threatening. The Catholic church, conservatives etc. just closed their eyes and thus embraced the fall of Western Civilization.
My Question: I fully support the Ben OP and seek to live outside the existing vulgar, amoral totalitarian, “society”. Splitting the country is the best option but I doubt it will happen soon enough. I regard religion and as a good and important force but am not religious. Will people like me have a place in the Ben OP community?

#10 Comment By Michael Flanagan On April 21, 2017 @ 11:38 am

We started contracepting ourselves out of existence around 1965 with the introduction of the Pill, without it, we would still be producing 4-5 kids/family. It’s been said that of all the inventions in the past 100 years, the Pill has had the greatest effect.

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 21, 2017 @ 1:42 pm

You’re right — he *did* miss the Baby Boom. But that was just a blip in the overall trend he describes. — RD

Was it? Assumes facts not in evidence.

[NFR: Google “Baby Bust”. — RD]

#12 Comment By kgasmart On April 21, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

I regard religion and as a good and important force but am not religious. Will people like me have a place in the Ben OP community?

Interesting question, one I’ve also wondered about.

But it’s not just me (or you); I’m seeing more of this about, people who are not themselves religious but respect the role religion has played as a civilizing force in our society, for its historic ability to keep appetites in check and for the moral code it provided – and who worry, now, that as the US de-Christianizes nothing else will provide this framework. And without this framework comes collapse.

#13 Comment By G Harvey On April 21, 2017 @ 3:06 pm

No surprise to me about any of it. PC preaching, from Hollywood as well as formal education, has results. It is advertising, and advertising works.

Liberalism is the suicide of the West. It shows in particular after particular.

#14 Comment By mrscracker On April 21, 2017 @ 3:57 pm

Debbie,
Yes.
A smaller population isn’t so much the problem as the demographic imbalance we face getting there and the consequences.
We face a hugely unbalanced population, many more elderly and few to care for them. Additionally it takes more resources to care for the very elderly and that will cause resentment when those resources become limited.
Abortion is a terrible thing in our culture today but I expect euthanasia will overshadow it in numbers.

#15 Comment By Thrice A Viking On April 21, 2017 @ 4:19 pm

In re the issues posed by will and kgasmart: I remember that, after the LA riots following the Rodney King verdicts in Simi Valley, that he dreaded a post-Christian America. He said that not as a non-religious person, but as a deeply devout Jew. The fear seems to afflict many people who aren’t Christians.

#16 Comment By Thrice A Viking On April 21, 2017 @ 4:20 pm

Oops, I forgot to note who said that. It was Dennis Prager. Sorry about the omission.

#17 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On April 21, 2017 @ 5:38 pm

It’s actually fairly normal for animal populations to grow exponentially and then hit an environmental constraint which sharply curtails grow. Stress, overcrowding, illness, lack of territory can contribute.

All of these conditions are present in modern urban environments. It doesn’t really matter that there’s room elsewhere​, it’s the local environment that counts.

#18 Comment By Mike T On April 21, 2017 @ 6:36 pm

As an early millennial (33) I would say these results are all linked. I know many millennials are worried about getting a job and achieving financial independence. Under these circumstances, the idea of having a family is one step further away from the more immediate pressing need of paying of student loans, paying rent, and putting food on the table. So instead of self-indulgence, I would say it is more rooted in a “survival mentality.” “Capable of supporting a family financially” is #3 on the list, suggesting that many millennials still want families but are finding that the need to hustle to raise the money to do so is the top priority. Getting a degree (seen as necessary to compete economically)and then a job are one and two. Other factors influenced by economic anxiety round out the list. If you are not in a stable job (job changes happen every 2 years for most millennials) liable to need to move across the country for work, and have large debts, it might seem financially irresponsible to start a family.

While I’m certain the decline of a religious culture has had an impact, I would not ignore the economics.

#19 Comment By JonF On April 21, 2017 @ 6:55 pm

RE: Yes, I ve heard before that data shows early marriage and large families were not the norm throughout history but pretty much everything I see in family history and history in general points to the opposite conclusion.

As far as history goes the people whose marriage were recorded in the books tended to be very wealthy and powerful people– and those people very often did marry young. They could afford to, and their daughters were useless (to be blunt) except as wives and mothers– unlike the lower orders where women labored in fields and household businesses, and daughters could do that too. As far as your family history goes I suppose we can have dueling anecdotes: in my ancestry the norm was rather late marriage and childbearing, so that while I am now fifty, my grandparents (whom I never even knew) were born before automobiles and airplanes and radio and while Queen Victoria was still on the the British throne.
As for the low life expectancy, that is in large part due to the horribly high childhood mortality rate. A person who survived childhood had a very good chance of living beyond what we now call middle age– so plenty of time to have children before the Reaper called. There were fewer “old old” than nowadays, but still lots of people past their childbearing years.

Re: What happens when a large percentage of the population is over 65, and there are not enough workers to keep everything running?

Ah, but if workers are in short supply, wages will go up and that will entice people not working to (re)enter the labor force. (How many people do we have out of the labor force right now?). This actually happened in the late 90s. We’re not talking about the Black Death carrying off 40% of the population or more all at once, but a much more gradual process. And of course more people working also means higher tax receipts for Social Security.

Re: Will countries with younger populations invade western countries, in violent ways instead of peaceful ways like legal immigration?

No.
First off the falling off in birth rates is a worldwide phenomenon, not just an American one. And the very few countries who have not experienced it are the world’s basket cases. Even in the days of the Pharaohs it took a lot more than just a bunch of men to form up an army and mount a successful war efforts. And these days it takes vastly more. You have to have a functional economy that can withstand the pressures of war (see: Russia, 1917, as an example of what happens when the economy can’t). You need a secure supply of natural resources. Talented and skilled workers to produce ordinance. And sufficient social cohesion that everyone is more or less on board with the effort and willing to sacrifice for it. Anyone think that describes Yemen or Somalia or Haiti?

Re: People who are older when they marry are more set in their ways and may find the selflessness demanded by marriage and family harder to deal with.

My experience is that younger people are worse about this in many ways, making great dramas and towering mountains of outrage over things that a forty year old, with much more ballast in his/her life, knows will soon pass. Look at the figures for divorce. The single largest predictor for a failed marriage is early age of marriage. Just in my own acquaintance circle, every last marriage with one exception (my Mormon niece) where one of the partners was under 25 when it began collapsed eventually. So did some older marriages, but far fewer of them. And one other factor is involved there: most of us are no longer A-listers in our more mature years; we’re less likely to find someone new. So the fact that the hubby snores or the wife is a kitchen klutz who could burn water is more easily overlooked when the alternative is a looming lonely old age.

#20 Comment By JonF On April 22, 2017 @ 8:12 am

Re: We started contracepting ourselves out of existence around 1965 with the introduction of the Pill, without it, we would still be producing 4-5 kids/family.

And you now this how? Plenty of people had just one or two children per family long before the Pill came along. There have also been eras of history when significant numbers of people never married or had children. Monasticism was a popular option in the Early Middle– one that retarded Europe’s recovery from the 6th century’s demographic collapse. And in the 15th century it is estimated that 25% of the adult population of England never married or had children– much higher than now.

#21 Comment By mrscracker On April 22, 2017 @ 8:29 am

JonF,
I understand that there is data showing a different pattern in marriage than what I’ve seen in my family and from reading history, but Catholics, no matter how unimportant, generally have marriages recorded in church records. Some of my Catholic ancestors were very poor and illiterate but they still have records of their baptisms and marriages in their parishes.
Tuberculosis carried away many adolescents and young people. It was called the White Plague. Surviving childhood diseases was still no guarantee you’d live long enough to have your own children.
I’ve followed family records back to the 1600’s and see the same early marriage pattern -Catholic and non Catholics alike. But I should take time to look at the demographic records overall. Better, I should get my son to do the work for me since he does that at his job and has the data at hand.
🙂
Some of my grandparents were born in the Victorian era, too. I was born when my daddy was older and his daddy was born in 1882.
Hope you have a great weekend! God bless.

#22 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 22, 2017 @ 11:00 am

Was it? Assumes facts not in evidence.

I was curious so I looked up a graph of US fertility rates since 1910 or so.

I wouldn’t really call the Baby Boom a blip per se: there was a (fascinating, to me) sustained rise in fertility over a 25-year period that peaked in 1957 at 3.8 children per family, so too long to be a blip. The long term trend since 1910 (and since long before that I think) has been downward I think, so if you want to take the long view the sexual revolution and ‘liquid modernity’ (and especially, the increasing crisis of employment since the late 1970s) have caused a big fertility decline. Still the graph is interesting because it reminds us how much variation there is within this sort of thing, and how much trends can change within quite a short time period. Eastern Germany after all went from having higher fertility than the west in the 1980s (almost at replacement), to having the lowest fertility in the world in the 1990s, to now being above the west again.

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#23 Comment By Let Me Recover My Sight – Mk 10 On April 22, 2017 @ 3:17 pm

The Duggar family of “19 Kids and Counting” TV fame do not participate in this family civilization crisis. The Duggars are members of a fundamentalist Christian church.

The family civilization crisis ONLY exists outside of Christian fundamentalism: the crisis in within young mainline Protestants, young Roman Catholics, young Eastern Orthodox, young Evangelicals, and secular people.

So, what’s the conclusion to draw? “The Fundamentalist Option”!

I.e., don’t try to draw inspiration from 6th century celibate, unmarried, childless, voluntarily-poor monks.

Instead, like the Duggar family, draw inspiration from the 1st century Christian who were married-with-children with some single, poor and middle class with some rich, young and old and middle aged, i.e., everyone! It’s described there in the New Testament. It’s “the Way.” The 1st century church even called their way of life “The Way” (Acts 24:14-15)

Here are those Scriptures, with the Apostle Paul speaking before Felix, in Acts 24:14-25:
“But this I confess to you, that according to THE WAY, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”

The Duggars and other Fundamentalists today are often called a “sect” just as the Christians were called a sect by many 1st century Jews.

But the Duggars and other Fundamentalists today are free, or much more free, of many of the ills plaguing the Non-Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists have never ceased practicing the Biblical Separation as seen in the 1st century church of the New Testament.

This Separation causes them to be ridiculed and derided, even by Non-Fundamentalist Christians. Just look at how Kim Davis, another Christian fundamentalist, was ridiculed, reviled and rebuffed (even by Non-Fundamentalist Christians) when she, as Kentucky county clerk, continued after Obergefell to follow the ancient tradition of law and custom of only issuing marriage licenses for men to marry women.

[NFR: You haven’t read my book, have you? — RD]

#24 Comment By Stephen Goddard On April 22, 2017 @ 4:48 pm

A society that no longer cherishes and values children above all else is indeed a sick society. A people that do not want to reproduce themselves are a people sick in a very fundamental way. I used to lament such things in our own country, which is what the crux of the worry expressed by Rod seems to be all about. However, now I see it as natural and correct and good. It is better for a sick society to not have so many kids, in other words the future is better off if what is now sick is left to die out. The Catholic Church in the USA, similarly, is a sick and dying thing, but worldwide it is doing very well, with millions of new converts in Africa and Asia. In addition, Latin America is still very Catholic, even if for many people it is mostly a cultural tradition more than strong faith. The USA has become an unhealthy organism, with low birth rate and very high suicide rate. The world would probably be better off without it, and the Catholic Church as well. I’m moving to Colombia in three weeks, largely to raise my children in a more healthy environment. That’s my version of the Ben Op. Lately I have had the additional concern of nuclear war with Russia, since our government seems hell bent on reckless, irresponsible militarism.

#25 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 22, 2017 @ 5:30 pm

I’m moving to Colombia in three weeks, largely to raise my children in a more healthy environment

Stephen Goddard,

Good for you. I very much would like to move to a different country myself, I share much of your disgust at this country, and Colombia has much to recommend it. However, I would warn you, Colombia currently has a below-replacement fertility rate according to the United Nations:

[7]

Their population is projected to start decreasing by 2040:

[8]

And Colombia is scheduled to have an older population than the United States by 2050:

#26 Comment By JonF On April 22, 2017 @ 9:50 pm

Re: A society that no longer cherishes and values children above all else is indeed a sick society.

There is not one scintilla of evidence that the US does not value CHILDREN. (Hint: We may have fewer children, but it does not logically follow that we therefore do not value the ones we have).

Re: A people that do not want to reproduce themselves are a people sick in a very fundamental way.

Societies do not reproduce. Individual men and women do. As has been said many times in these debates, most people still do have children– just not as many of them. And since we are thankfully past the long ages when you needed four or five kids to ensure that at least two survived, there really isn’t a need to have that many these days.As for those of us who do not have children– you have no clue whatsoever our situations or motives are. You have no business pronouncing any kind of judgment on it since you are utterly ignorant. And would you say that monks and nuns and celibate clergy are “sick”?

#27 Comment By JonF On April 22, 2017 @ 9:54 pm

Re: Instead, like the Duggar family, draw inspiration from the 1st century Christian who were married-with-children with some single, poor and middle class with some rich, young and old and middle aged, i.e., everyone!

Huh?
I seem to recall that St Paul and a number of the Apostles were childless and unmarried– and Paul at least even advised others that this was the better path spiritually for all who could follow it. You have a very inaccurate view of the early Church. It too prized virginity and celibacy.

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 22, 2017 @ 9:56 pm

The Duggar family is rumored to have significant dysfunction and instability not highlighted in the scripted TV show.

Still the graph is interesting because it reminds us how much variation there is within this sort of thing, and how much trends can change within quite a short time period.

I find that a much more fact-based and balanced assessment than describing and trend of a few decades as a “blip” and implying that the contrasting stats and trends before and after represent the long and unchanged “norm” from everlasting to everlasting. On the other hand, googling an opinionated screed entitled “Baby Bust” reveals the thinking of the writer, but does not adequately reflect the full universe of facts on the ground.

#29 Comment By JonF On April 22, 2017 @ 10:18 pm

Re: Catholics, no matter how unimportant, generally have marriages recorded in church records.

*Maybe* this has been true in recent generations, but if you go back far enough (pre 18th century) it wasn’t. Our earlier written records, to the extent they have survived at all from earlier eras (fire, flood, rot, etc have destroyed many of them), focus almost exclusively on propertied people, at a minimum those with sufficient stuff that they would make a will for their heirs to probate when they died.

Re: Surviving childhood diseases was still no guarantee you’d live long enough to have your own children.

No, and it still isn’t in fact: people still die young, unmarried and childless. Violent trauma is the usual cause these days.
However I will repeat myself: most people who survived childhood in past eras, assuming they did not live in an era of demographic collapse (the 6th and 14th century are the only two well known) could reasonably expect to live into their 50s. There was no need to rush to the altar and the childbed; Indeed, medical authorities going back to Aristotle advised women to wait until they were at least 20 and space their children out a bit (and that was good medical advice), and men were told to eschew sex until at least their late teens for moral reasons– precocious sexuality was thought to corrupt a man’s morals for life. Even among nobles, who did marry ridiculously young girls, were expected to “respect the bride’s youth” and wait a few years before consummating the union. Even villainous old King John did so with eleven year old Isabelle of Angouleme (they had their first child when she was 17).

When demographic researchers pronounce on these things I can only assume that they have looked at the extant records too and have drawn their conclusions from what they have found there, with maybe an assist from various secondary sources (censuses, tax records, etc.). Also, such records must be approached with caution since they often recorded households, not families in the modern sense, and households might contain extended kin not just a nuclear family as today. For example, a census source lists my great-great-grandfather Jacob Friend (Freund) as having had eighteen (!) children, with the youngest “fathered” by him when he was himself just six years old. What really was their situation is that Jacob had returned to Germany and helped a number of relatives also immigrate to America and those “impossible” children may have been siblings or nieces and nephews or even cousins.

(Alas, I wish I were having a better weekend than I am. Some serious stresses have visited my life this past week. I probably sound ornery right now. But God bless you too, and maybe we will meet at WPW in St Francisville in a few weeks?)

#30 Comment By Thomas Edward On April 23, 2017 @ 9:19 pm

All that is interesting, and no doubt true. But the article has not addressed the ‘other shoe’ so to speak that must drop before cultural decline truly becomes terminal. Who are the people that still believe in family, who still have 3 or more children? Combine the answer to that question with the seemingly inexorable advancement of open borders and immigration as a right, and it becomes apparent who will inherit the West (at the very least).

#31 Comment By jcastarz On April 23, 2017 @ 9:56 pm

Rod:

Over the last century, we’ve altered our economy from encouraging families with children to actively filtering against them. And we have elevated this new economic system above God and Country to boot. To rephrase a part of Jon’s post: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” While many posts to this article have shown that money isn’t everything when it comes to having children (love is also important), many other posts state that it sure helps. Economics is one of the important legs of the family stool, and after you yank it out the remaining legs have got to carry just that much more of the load.

#32 Comment By mrscracker On April 24, 2017 @ 6:59 am

JonF,
I hope your week ahead is less stressful. I said a prayer for you.
I thought about the WP weekend. I live just down the road so to speak, so perhaps I might do that.
You take care.
🙂