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Thread: Natalism: the new population explosion

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Natalism: the new population explosion

    NY Times
    OP-ED COLUMN

    The New Red-Diaper Babies

    By DAVID BROOKS


    There is a little-known movement sweeping across the United States. The movement is "natalism."

    All across the industrialized world, birthrates are falling - in Western Europe, in Canada and in many regions of the United States. People are marrying later and having fewer kids. But spread around this country, and concentrated in certain areas, the natalists defy these trends.

    They are having three, four or more kids. Their personal identity is defined by parenthood. They are more spiritually, emotionally and physically invested in their homes than in any other sphere of life, having concluded that parenthood is the most enriching and elevating thing they can do. Very often they have sacrificed pleasures like sophisticated movies, restaurant dining and foreign travel, let alone competitive careers and disposable income, for the sake of their parental calling.

    In a world that often makes it hard to raise large families, many are willing to move to find places that are congenial to natalist values. The fastest-growing regions of the country tend to have the highest concentrations of children. Young families move away from what they perceive as disorder, vulgarity and danger and move to places like Douglas County in Colorado (which is the fastest-growing county in the country and has one of the highest concentrations of kids). Some people see these exurbs as sprawling, materialistic wastelands, but many natalists see them as clean, orderly and affordable places where they can nurture children.

    If you wanted a one-sentence explanation for the explosive growth of far-flung suburbs, it would be that when people get money, one of the first things they do is use it to try to protect their children from bad influences.

    So there are significant fertility inequalities across regions. People on the Great Plains and in the Southwest are much more fertile than people in New England or on the Pacific coast.

    You can see surprising political correlations. As Steve Sailer pointed out in The American Conservative, George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates.

    In The New Republic Online, Joel Kotkin and William Frey observe, "Democrats swept the largely childless cities - true blue locales like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boston and Manhattan have the lowest percentages of children in the nation - but generally had poor showings in those places where families are settling down, notably the Sun Belt cities, exurbs and outer suburbs of older metropolitan areas."

    Politicians will try to pander to this group. They should know this is a spiritual movement, not a political one. The people who are having big families are explicitly rejecting materialistic incentives and hyperindividualism. It costs a middle-class family upward of $200,000 to raise a child. These people are saying money and ambition will not be their gods.

    Natalists resist the declining fertility trends not because of income, education or other socioeconomic characteristics. It's attitudes. People with larger families tend to attend religious services more often, and tend to have more traditional gender roles.

    I draw attention to natalists because they're an important feature of our national life. Because of them, the U.S. stands out in all sorts of demographic and cultural categories. But I do it also because when we talk about the divide on values in this country, caricatured in the red and blue maps, it's important that we understand the true motive forces behind it.

    Natalists are associated with red America, but they're not launching a jihad. The differences between them and people on the other side of the cultural or political divide are differences of degree, not kind. Like most Americans, but perhaps more anxiously, they try to shepherd their kids through supermarket checkouts lined with screaming Cosmo or Maxim cover lines. Like most Americans, but maybe more so, they suspect that we won't solve our social problems or see improvements in our schools as long as many kids are growing up in barely functioning families.

    Like most Americans, and maybe more so because they tend to marry earlier, they find themselves confronting the consequences of divorce. Like most Americans, they wonder how we can be tolerant of diverse lifestyles while still preserving the family institutions that are under threat.

    What they cherish, like most Americans, is the self-sacrificial love shown by parents. People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    These people continue to drain the resources of single workers and people who choose to have only one or two offspring. It is fundementally wrong that we should have to subsidize their choice to have a large family by paying more taxes (fewer exemptions) and supporting the schools, prisons, and other institutions their kids will populate. Sorry to rant, but I am one of those people who will continue to pay more in taxes than I will ever receive back from my government, and I just got my tax forms a few days ago as a reminder.
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    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    These people continue to drain the resources of single workers and people who choose to have only one or two offspring. It is fundementally wrong that we should have to subsidize their choice to have a large family by paying more taxes (fewer exemptions) and supporting the schools, prisons, and other institutions their kids will populate. Sorry to rant, but I am one of those people who will continue to pay more in taxes than I will ever receive back from my government, and I just got my tax forms a few days ago as a reminder.
    For every large family, there are households of young professionals who are carefully planning a life with 1 or 0 kids. Years ago these people would have had more kids. There are also more singles households now. Also, those who forgo kids need more government subsidy when they are old without a bunch of middle aged kids to care for them. Parents should be aware of the consequences, but if they want to have 10 kids, let them have 10 kids.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    These people continue to drain the resources of single workers and people who choose to have only one or two offspring. It is fundementally wrong that we should have to subsidize their choice to have a large family by paying more taxes (fewer exemptions) and supporting the schools, prisons, and other institutions their kids will populate. Sorry to rant, but I am one of those people who will continue to pay more in taxes than I will ever receive back from my government, and I just got my tax forms a few days ago as a reminder.
    Wow?!? - Perhaps we could create a Federal Department of Reproduction to solve this problem? Maybe a one child policy would work? Or a one testicle policy? That should cut down on the breeder's hitting the genetic target so often, and the scar tissue would seriously curb their randy ways!

    Just curious, how are you supporting my offspring? And if you are very indirectly supporting my offspring for a brief period of thier lives (school) how is that not out weighed by the benefits of the work my offspring will produce when you become a bitter old retired dude? Yes, some of us also work and pay taxes. My guess is that I'm one of those that also provides more in taxes than I receive in direct benefits. I'm too busy living to do the math. But you know I don't have much of a problem providing my tax money very indirectly to someone who believes that raising children is good and honorable work. I do have issues with people that breed and then neglect. You'll find far more waste there than in the families described in the article.

    Simply put: I don't have a problem with people having all the kids they can provide for. In fact, perhaps we should take the bold move and encourage parenthood through our tax structures and other government policy even more.

    PS - My sister has three children, and lives a simple life so that she can be there for her kids, much like those described in the article. The only resource she's draining from you is school room space. And I'm sure she and her husband more than pay the $3,800 in taxes per pupil than Kansas paid per child for schools last I checked.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Brooks is an idiot. His articles have been picked apart before. Basically every statement of fact he makes he just pulls out of his ass. He also likes to invent new words. "Natalism?" Jesus Christ. Whatever happened to "good parents?"

    My parents were like he descirbes in that they have four childeren, who are the most important things in their lives, and that they're practicing Catholics. But they're also straight-party Democrat voters and are not protective, believing we need to learn to care for ourselves.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    My sister has three children, and lives a simple life so that she can be there for her kids, much like those described in the article. The only resource she's draining from you is school room space. And I'm sure she and her husband more than pay the $3,800 in taxes per pupil than Kansas paid per child for schools last I checked.
    This almost describes me. We aren't a burden on those who pay school taxes because we choose to send our kids to parochial school, but you don't hear us complain about those taxes we pay.

    Some people choose or are not able to have children, some have one, some have many. That's the way things have always been, and we don't need a new word to describe that.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Well, Cardinal, good thing my health problems prevented me from having a third child. But now I suppose I should feel guilty for the tens of thousands of dollars of medical and medical-related expenses -- PER YEAR, in some years -- that it has cost to keep me alive and work towards healing. God forbid that anyone should measure theirs lives by something other than the almighty dollar.

    Perhaps this would be a bad time to mention that, with the right man and under the right circumstances, a third child in my 40's is not out of the question.


    PS: I homeschool so no one's school tax money is going to my kids, thanks. And I was never on food stamps, WIC, etc. even when I probably qualified for them early in my marriage when the first child arrived 7 years ahead of schedule. But I know how un-PC it is to mention that absolute and utter control over how many you choose you to have and when you choose to have them isn't realistic....unless you want to pursue a draconian "one child" policy....but that timing thing would still not be 100% under our control.

    Oh, and Mr. Zone thinks that we have made the huge mistake of interfering with Natural Selection. We really should stop bringing down the infant mortality rate. It allows defective, costly citizens like me to continue living, thereby clearly bringing down the overall quality of life for the nation as a whole. Really, the world would surely be a better place if I had died before the age of 5. Then I wouldn't have to talk about how much better the world would be if my defective kiddos had died before the age of 5...because they would never have been born.

    Heck, we could just start sterilizing people at birth. That would solve this whole icky problem.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    ...I do have issues with people that breed and then neglect. You'll find far more waste there than in the families described in the article.

    Simply put: I don't have a problem with people having all the kids they can provide for. In fact, perhaps we should take the bold move and encourage parenthood through our tax structures and other government policy even more....
    I don't disagree with any part of this. If people are good parents and they have the ability to provide for their children, then I really don't care if they go ahead and procreate. The problem I do see is that far too many parents do not or cannot provide for their children, expect the government to fill the void, and are not good parents (in either high-birth red states or low-birth blue states). I did not see the article excluding these people from its discussion of large families, despite talking about the parents whose values include a family life.

    Despite a trend toward electing conservatives, we are still seeing a creeping role of the government in providing services that people once would have never considered anything but the role of the family. Politicians, regardless of flavor, will seldom pass up an opportunity to curry favor with voters. It is no longer enought that we expect schools to educate kids. Now they must be surrogate parents, provide health care, free lunches and hot breakfasts, computers for every student, transportation to and from school, etc. No, back in my day we did not have to walk uphill each way through blizzards with roving packs of wolves ready to cut us down. But there does come a time when you have to ask if schools are being asked to do too much more than their central role, which is to educate. The example of schools is repeated in other public services.

    Back to my original point, people need to live within their means. That should force them to make decisions about such things as the number of children they are going to have. If they can't support them, they should not have them. That is part of being a good parent.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I don't disagree with any part of this. If people are good parents and they have the ability to provide for their children, then I really don't care if they go ahead and procreate. The problem I do see is that far too many parents do not or cannot provide for their children, expect the government to fill the void, and are not good parents (in either high-birth red states or low-birth blue states). I did not see the article excluding these people from its discussion of large families, despite talking about the parents whose values include a family life.

    Despite a trend toward electing conservatives, we are still seeing a creeping role of the government in providing services that people once would have never considered anything but the role of the family. Politicians, regardless of flavor, will seldom pass up an opportunity to curry favor with voters. It is no longer enought that we expect schools to educate kids. Now they must be surrogate parents, provide health care, free lunches and hot breakfasts, computers for every student, transportation to and from school, etc. No, back in my day we did not have to walk uphill each way through blizzards with roving packs of wolves ready to cut us down. But there does come a time when you have to ask if schools are being asked to do too much more than their central role, which is to educate. The example of schools is repeated in other public services.

    Back to my original point, people need to live within their means. That should force them to make decisions about such things as the number of children they are going to have. If they can't support them, they should not have them. That is part of being a good parent.
    Agreed! Let's get back to those mean old days when we kicked the living **** out of people who didn't live up to society's expectations.

    We do put up with too much crap in our schools, and eventually those same idiot kids grow up to cause more trouble in the greater society and have their own idiot kids.

    Poverty and stupidity are rarely anything other than hereditary.

    The reason why most of our institutions are bankrupt is our irrational fear of lawyers and lawsuits and stupid jury’s. Imagine if school boards could make decisions based upon logic and not the ACLU's, the Patent's or the Teacher's implied threat of a lawsuit. What a wonderful world it could be.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    I know a few "Natalists"

    If this is in fact an identifiable sub-group, does anyone see as a problem that they choose exurban areas in which to raise families? Assuming they actually have a legitimate point, have our cities become too unfriendly to families, or is it a type of mindset that tries to insulate children from the more harsh aspects of life? I think one of the things that intimidates me about having a family is the kind of lifestyle your expected to give for the kids. I believe I would find that kind of sacrifice quite difficult.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Brooks' point (and calling him an idiot moves the discussion nowhere...) is a simple demographic one. In some areas, particularly in the south and in the middle west, the rate of growth of larger families is increasing. Families in parts, such as major cities, are slowing.

    Its an interesting trend that may have political and cultural implications.

    I don't think the article was meant to engender a discussion relating to the social irresponsibility of large families.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    See, I live in a big city neighborhood with huge families. I had over 200 kids come to my door on Halloween. So I'm not getting what Brooks is talking about. Brooks has been shown before to simply make stuff up (he argues that he just says stuff that "rings true" (his words) rather than relying on statistics.)

    Brooks traffics in cultural stereotypes and invents words to try to describe them. But his very lack of rigor makes his drivel meaningless.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Random, half-awake thoughts:

    The Southwest probably does have more large families: There are typically more Hispanic immigrants around these parts and they tend to have larger families.

    In tribal cultures, a child becomes useful to some degree as a worker at age 4. In medieal times, kids began working as apprentices and such a lot younger than is the norm today. So now you practically need a master's degree to support your kids and they are viewed as merely consumptive. But, historically, having a large family was a means to provide farmhands and some kind of "retirement".

    If you have sex, babies can happen and sometimes do happen. Acting like they are less moral than sexually active but less fertile people doesn't make for good policies. A lot of historical cultural norms and policies grows out of the need to deal with realities like that and still let folks have sex sometimes. Norms like "shotgun weddings" make it possible to be redeemed (so to speak) after a screw up. Policies which punish people for things beyond their control tend to only compound such problems.

    I am thinking: cheaper post-secondary education would be a step in the right direction.

    The West was Wild until women began showing up in large numbers and babies began happening. Marriage and children are a well-documented civilizing force. If there is less bad behavior, less crime, etc. cuz of kids, it seems pretty apparent to me that you cannot call children merely "consumptive". They add to society in qualitative ways, which both can and cannot be measured in dollars.

    I think I had more thoughts but the antihistamines seems to have eaten them.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    It is no longer enought that we expect schools to educate kids. Now they must be surrogate parents, provide health care, free lunches and hot breakfasts, computers for every student, transportation to and from school, etc. No, back in my day we did not have to walk uphill each way through blizzards with roving packs of wolves ready to cut us down. But there does come a time when you have to ask if schools are being asked to do too much more than their central role, which is to educate. The example of schools is repeated in other public services.
    Somewhat off-topic: One of the suburban counties here in Atlanta is trying to force the school board to pay for widening roads that schools are located on. While I do think school placement is often done in a really thoughtless and stupid manner, it does seem crazy to extend the responsibility of the school board to include widening roads (and the cynic in me thinks it is really just an excuse to move education dollars into building more roads... this is sprawlanta afterall).

    Back on top: HA... I'm not touching the actual topic at hand with a 100 foot Festivus pole.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Well.. unlike most of countries on their way to development, and certainly of Chile's "neighborhood", we're one of the countries with lowest natality... around 2%, and falling.
    Those "natalists" around here are mostly Opus Dei followers, so I'm not that concered about taxes or anything as they generally have the money to have 6 kids in wealthy private schools. Although of course there are a lot of poor families, mostly rural that also have lots of children, and those do strain the government's plans against poverty and affordable housing.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    Brooks' point (and calling him an idiot moves the discussion nowhere...) is a simple demographic one. In some areas, particularly in the south and in the middle west, the rate of growth of larger families is increasing. Families in parts, such as major cities, are slowing.

    Its an interesting trend that may have political and cultural implications.

    I don't think the article was meant to engender a discussion relating to the social irresponsibility of large families.
    You know, my first thought after reading this article was that fertility won't be the biggest factor in shaping our future, but migration and immigration will.

    I haven't checked the stats, but I'd be willing to concede that fertility rates are higher in places like Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Missouri and Kansas, when compared to Michigan, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, for example. But I'd also bet that the growth of high-fertility states is somewhat offset by the immigration of those low-fertility states.

    I don't know. A trend, maybe, but I need to see more to determine if it has broader significance for the future of the nation.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle
    Somewhat off-topic: One of the suburban counties here in Atlanta is trying to force the school board to pay for widening roads that schools are located on. While I do think school placement is often done in a really thoughtless and stupid manner, it does seem crazy to extend the responsibility of the school board to include widening roads (and the cynic in me thinks it is really just an excuse to move education dollars into building more roads... this is sprawlanta afterall).
    When a property develops, the cost of extending infrastructure, including roads, is usually assessed to that property. At the last community I worked in, a new high school was constructed on an arterial road in the city. Later, they asked the city to construct a new road (at a cost of $500,000, not including land for right-of-way) that would connect them to a second arterial. Is it right that they should expect the city to pay for this? 1) They chose the site where they built the school. If it did not meet their needs, is it the role of the city to fix the problem? 2) The school is generating the traffic which they think is so bad that access to another arterial is needed. Do you charge the residents of the city, or the "business" that is causing the problem? Add to this that while city taxpayers would foot the bill, taxpayers in the unincorporated county would not have to pay for the fix.

    No, I am in favor of cities treating schools just as they would any other property owner in the city.
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  18. #18
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Sounds to me like Brooks needed to put some kind of drivel together to meet a deadline. It's unfortunate that the NY Times actually printed it. It's crap like this that makes Democrats look like a bunch of whining Chicken Littles.
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian nuovorecord's avatar
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    Some people see these exurbs as sprawling, materialistic wastelands, but many natalists see them as clean, orderly and affordable places where they can nurture children.
    I wonder what percentage of these children will choose to remain in these soulless outposts once they are old enough to choose where they want to live. Seems like there's a large percentage of young, educated people moving back into cities.

    If you wanted a one-sentence explanation for the explosive growth of far-flung suburbs, it would be that when people get money, one of the first things they do is use it to try to protect their children from bad influences.
    Like there's no crime, drugs or sex in the 'burbs. Give me a break!
    "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." - Bill Clinton.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nuovorecord
    I wonder what percentage of these children will choose to remain in these soulless outposts once they are old enough to choose where they want to live. Seems like there's a large percentage of young, educated people moving back into cities.
    This may be an overly broad generalization. You will find many places in the suburban wasteland that are truly wonderful. I wouldn't doubt that there are as many of these as there are great neighborhoods in the urban wasteland. You would also find that the exurbs in the rural wasteland tend to be the places with the greatest sense of community.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally posted by nuovorecord
    I wonder what percentage of these children will choose to remain in these soulless outposts once they are old enough to choose where they want to live. Seems like there's a large percentage of young, educated people moving back into cities.
    Part of it is suburban kids who don't want to settle down in the suburbs leaving for the places they want to live when they become young adults. That's what I did.

    Part of it is suburban kids who DO want to settle down in the suburbs also leaving when they become young adults. I spent my childhood in one of these suburbs, where nearly everyone is either a child or married with children. Dating is relatively difficult there. If I wanted to be married with children in the same place I was a child, I'd still probably need to move in order to find someone to marry in the first place and then move back (either that or stay in place and try to steal someone else's husband or resort to matrimonial.com, I guess).

  22. #22
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    More power to the 'natalists'. At this point, 1 child is 1 to many for the Mrs. and I. Financially, emotionally and professionally (me) we're not ready.
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    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    The whole premise behind the article is that this is a new phenomena. The suburbs have been growing since the advent of the automobile. The only thing that is new in this article is the fact that Brooks has created a term for it.

    I'm eagerly awaiting his next article, where he boldly announces that computers are the wave of the future.
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  24. #24

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    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    The whole premise behind the article is that this is a new phenomena. The suburbs have been growing since the advent of the automobile. The only thing that is new in this article is the fact that Brooks has created a term for it.

    I'm eagerly awaiting his next article, where he boldly announces that computers are the wave of the future.
    Is Brooks really a "Democrate" or really a "Liberal"

    Or is he really part of another great trend: Conservatives or semi-conservatives trying to tell us commies how to get back in touch with the heartland?

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    BKM's got it! My reading of Brook's stuff is that he is conservative. I think his article can also be hinting at the notion that some families are getting larger, living in red states, and going to church more.

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