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Community Problems Associated with Very Low Fertility

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  • 0:00 Fertility Decline
  • 0:40 Reasons for Low Fertility
  • 1:42 Potential Problems
  • 5:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Despite a growing world population, many industrialized nations are experiencing a decrease in fertility rates. Explore some potential problems this could create, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Fertility Decline

If you've ever been to a major city and even attempted to find a parking space, you've probably noticed that this world is pretty heavily populated. So, it may be a surprise to find out that many industrialized nations, including the United States, are starting to worry about declining fertility, or birthrates. No, it's true - for about the last decade, many nations are seeing their fertility rates go down as fewer and fewer people are having children. Is this good? Is this bad? To find out, how about a quick trip to the future?

Reasons for Low Fertility

Before we examine what this decrease in fertility could mean, let's talk about why it's happening. Although nobody completely agrees on the reason, researchers have identified several factors that seem to have had a big impact. First, are education and employment opportunities for women. As nations make it easier for women to have the same opportunities as men, these women often choose to focus on careers.

This decision is important because in many areas, work and family are incompatible. What I mean is that careers are demanding, and most corporate cultures don't leave a lot of room for family. It's one or the other. When you toss in the fact that the cost of child-raising is increasing while the cost of birth control is decreasing, it's really no surprise that so many people are deciding that careers are going to be a greater priority than having kids. As a result, fertility rates are on the downslide.

Potential Problems

Alright, here we are. This is one of the possible futures that people are worried could occur if this trend keeps up. Look at this society. It's full of old people! Disproportionately so. In this future, the majority of the population is elderly, and this means that there is a very heavy financial burden on the government. We've got a lot of people who need Medicaid, Social Security, pensions, and retirement benefits. These people are getting older, so they're going to have health concerns, which means that hospitals have to be ready to provide care. Overall, there is a lot of money that goes into providing for seniors.

Now, obviously we're happy to do it, but when you don't have a large younger generation, who's paying for all of this? Most of our social insurance programs for seniors are paid for by taxes. And this works because you have more people working and paying taxes than you have people who need this welfare. But if this reverses, you've got fewer people paying taxes and that money gets stretched pretty thin.

How about a glimpse of a different future? In this future, our economy has grinded almost to a halt. Why? Because fertility rates dropped too low. You see, most economists agree that a steadily growing population is better for the economy. You create more consumers, who grow into producers that make more products, and the economy grows. Maintaining a younger workforce helps promote healthy economic competition since new ideas are always flowing in.

Also, younger workers tend to be more adaptable, which again leads to new ideas and new solutions. Not to mention, having a larger younger generation means that the older workforce can move up the ladder. Experienced workers are promoted to managers as younger workers arrive. Overall, maintaining a certain level of fertility ensures that there are always fresh ideas coming in and that the competition which drives our economy remains strong.

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