The Population Crash
The following article was originally published in June 1973 (the year abortion on demand was legalized nationally by the U.S. Supreme Court) by the Population Crisis Council, 333 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60601. It was then distributed in pamphlet form by pro-life organizations. We are reprinting it in abridged form in connection with Ellen Myers's paper "Disobeying God's First Creation Order to Man: Be Fruitful and Multiply" published elsewhere in this issue.
If there was once a time when we could debate the population problem, that time has clearly passed. Those who cite the hard facts claim that we may have passed the point of no return. And the facts have never been harder.
Even if we could miraculously halt the drop in average family size at two children (from around eight 150 years ago, and close to four just 15 years ago) - and there is not the vaguest sign that we can or will - the American people would be extinct in a few thousand years. Gone (2 are needed for replacement, and we crashed through that gaining speed). A one-child average - not impossible, or even distant at the rate we're plunging - would empty the country in several centuries, almost faster than it was settled.
And even now, there is growing popularization of the no-child "family." Our reaction to this incipient national disaster will have analysts shaking their heads for years to come.
For some time we have seen forecasters predicting a surge in the birth rate. Indeed, as late as the 1970s, a dwindling band of stargazers was still waiting for the postwar babies to grow up and reproduce, setting off a secondary "boom." In reality, it was precisely the years when the postwar babies were coming into reproductive age - the 1960s - when the "baby bust" took hold, quietly but ominously lowering the preschool population from 20 to 17 million. Total births declined for seven straight years after 1961, then paused. In 1970, the birth rate pulled back up nearly to its all-time Depression low. The real decline had not yet begun.
The `60s "baby bust" was over. The `70s "birth dearth" was upon us. Already there are fewer babies being born than 25 years ago - in fact, more like as few as 50 years ago. (Births exceeded three million annually in the early 1920s, and may or may not reach three million in 1973.) But these figures are deceptively reassuring. What they fail to reflect is that we have been riding the crest of an unprecedented boom in the population of young adults. This growth is now extremely rapid, near its peak. While our total population growth is now far below 1% a year, the population aged 15-45 (against which fertility rates are measured) has been growing 2% a year, and the 20-30 population (from which most parents come) has been surging 3%. This powerful advantage will quickly recede, and disappear entirely in the `80s, when the leverage will reverse. Thereafter, young adults will actually be fewer in number each year. This will mean that even a rising birth rate could bring fewer and fewer babies.
Nothing in our history suggests that a rise in the birth rate can be sustained. With the exception of the postwar baby boom, it has never happened. And the future promises to add to the accelerating technological obstacles to birth. The present situation is this: with our young- adult population surging in record numbers - over a million a year - our child population is falling in record numbers. We are now losing a million children a year.
Needless to say, the population crisis took the "experts" completely by surprise. Incredible as it seems even in this brief retrospect, not until 1970 did the Census Bureau formally admit even the possibility that the United States could ever stop growing - and then only as an outside chance, far into the next century (2037). Yet by 1971, "zero growth" was seen as a certainty by 2001 - perhaps even 1980 - by Prof. Donald Bogue, University of Chicago demographer and past president of the Population Association of America. Such forecasts soon became commonplace.
Yet complacency persisted, as if the end of our growth were insignificant or even welcome. Indeed, back in 1970, popular spokesmen on population were calling for reduction of the birth rate to the replacement, or "zero growth," level as a positive national goal. By now many people are aware that we have reached the parental replacement level nationally It happened so fast that we missed it completely. It may have been as recently as 1972. For to replace ourselves, all women must reproduce at an average rate of 2.11 children. Census Bureau calculations place the average at a near 2.08 for the first half of 1972, and a rapidly retreating 1.98 for the second half.
A look at the past will give us the perspective to see that what we are confronted with now is only too real. Statistics on the U. S. birth rate go back to 1820, when it was 55 per 1,000 population. By 1920 it had declined to 28, falling almost in half in a century. Yet in barely another half century it has nearly fallen by half again, to 15.6 in 1972. Another fall of half by the end of this century would only be an extension of a 150 year trend.
But a realistic look at the nearer future casts doubt on whether we can maintain even that pace of deterioration. In fact, the fertility rate has recently been declining at a pitch that could halve it by 1980. The cumulative forces now working to effect this wreckage are so increasingly overwhelming in combination as to crush any actuarial prospects of our revival as a people. Obviously, any species that no longer replaces itself is committing ecological suicide. And it could be faster than almost anyone has dared to imagine, for we have means today of erasing ourselves more readily than ever before, and the "values" to use them.
One man with a working wife who had just bought a house in a new development expressed today's priorities on a phone-in show when the host asked if he had any children. He laughed. "Children are a luxury," he explained. But the most eloquent expression of the New American Dream may have come in the form of a picture that appeared on a Planned Parenthood poster; which said it all. It simply showed a cradle full of money. "An Unexpected Child Can Really Rock The Cradle," it noted subtly. Nothing could have better illustrated what and where today's values are.
The biggest percentage gain of all new stock issues in the year 1971 was scored by Berkeley Bio-Engineering, a company manufacturing the new suction abortion machines. The second biggest gain was registered by a contraceptive maker.
In January 1973 the birth rate scraped another new low: an officially estimated 14.6. That was the last month abortion was illegal in America.
The effect of national legalization of abortion has been roughly projected by pro-abortion authorities in terms of birth rate. The Rockefeller Commission estimated it would reduce it a tenth; Dr. Christopher Tietze anticipated a drop of a seventh. A reduction of a tenth to a seventh would cut our population a third to a half in four generations. Thus a century from now, for example, instead of having 150 million people we could have only 100 million, or even 75 million. But the total factor of abortion is only one of the accelerating negative influences on the birth rate. Far more devastating over the long term is another growing rage: sterilization. One long term study indicated that surgical sterilizations had increased from roughly .1 million annually in 1961 to 1.1 million in 1971 (.S male, .8 female). By 1972, annual estimates were actually ranging as high as 8 million, though some later reports suggest a tapering off. But the consensus seems to be that sterilizations are now well into seven figures annually, on a numerical par with abortion.
What makes sterilization far more damaging demographically than abortion is this. One sterilization can prevent more than one birth. It is precisely the long range nature of its effect that makes it the hidden crippler in our unlisted vital statistics that renders blind any hope of a foreseeable revival of our people.
Voluntary surgery for sterilization has become so rampant among both sexes that in 1971 Dr Louis Hellman, head of HEW's new Office of Population Affairs, predicted that by 1975 20% of American couples would have an artificially sterilized partner This would mean that a 25% surge in the birth rate among able-bodied couples would be needed to offset the sterilization factor alone.
A further consideration is that sterilization will markedly increase the number of couples with no children at all. Historically, childlessness has ranged between 10 and 20% - around the high level in 1950, the low in 1970. This means that it has only been by enlisting a surging number of young adults at peak proportions in the ranks of new parents that we have been able to maintain even our present birth rate. Should 20% of new couples include a sterilized partner, childlessness could quadruple, with childbearing couples reduced from 90% to 60%. But there is no reason why artificial sterilization has to stop at 20% in 1975 [it actually rose to 38.9% in 1985 according to the U. S. National Center for Health Statistics]. And the mounting incidence of involuntary sterilization, one of the silent, long term side effects of both induced abortion and venereal disease, cannot even begin to be estimated.
It is true that people are marrying in record numbers, but a sharply rising proportion of statistical marriages do not represent new family formations at all, but merely realignments. These remarriages are typically effected by women divorced three or four years. Since the median duration of broken marriages is seven years, these are typically fertile years, comprising a major rupture in a reproductive life that may or may not be resumed. Meanwhile the first-marriage rate has actually plunged to its lowest level since the Depression. In 1961 there were 1,548,000 marriages and 414,000 divorces and annulments. By 1971 marriages had risen to 2,196,000, a gain of 42%; but divorces totaled 768,000, up 85%. In 1972, all marriages increased 78,000, while divorces rose 71,000. The faster old marriages break down, the more reluctant young people are to begin new ones. From 1960 to 1970 the adult population grew by 33 million (114 to 147), but the married population rose only ten million (84 to 94). Meanwhile the unmarried population more than doubled, from 17 to 37 million. Should marriage fall as far out of fashion as it did in the 1920s, the plunging birth rate would have to bear still another heavy drag.
A few social theorists suspect marriage may be going out of style altogether Something like that could be happening in Sweden, where marriages are down 40% since 1966. In 1971, it was reported that women there were having children at the depleting level of 1.75. But perhaps the country most concerned about the population crisis is Russia, racing us for the world lead in divorce. There the birth rate is 11.
Few dare even to think where the population crisis may be leading us, and how fast. But recently an officially sponsored think tank symposium produced a jarring glimpse of the mediate future. A report compiled by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara foresaw and America in 2000 where few families had more than two children, and many had none. In that tomorrow, half the population was over 50, and a third over 65. The HEW, which commissioned the report but also does an exploding hundred million dollar business in birth control programs, has apparently suppressed it and will disclose no plans for it; the Center, following government instructions, will release no details of it. You might say it has become "inoperative."
Almost like the future society it reflects.
Editor's Note: Between 1980 and 1990 the United States population
grew from 226,542,203 to 248,709,873 according to the U.S. Census Bureau,
a total increase of 22,167,670. Immigrants accounted for about one third
(7,338,000), leaving a net internal increase of 14,820,670 in 10 years. This
amounts to an annual average increase of only about .6 percent, and this might
well sink to zero by the year 2000, just as Dr Donald Bogue of the University
of Chicago predicted in 1973.