Understanding the American Demographic Crisis, and What to Do about It

Whether they are concerned about population growth or about population decline, many writers and social scientists have warned about looming demographic disaster. Often that concern is focused on either society raising too few children, or the abundance of the wrong kind of people: the elderly, the poor, immigrants, and so forth. Lyman Stone, by contrast, defines demographic decline—a problem he believes to be very real—as “demographic outcomes that are explicitly and emphatically undesired by the people most immediately affected,” and considers its possible remedies:

For example, people don’t generally desire premature death. Yet death at young ages is rising rapidly in America. That is demographic decline. People generally desire children, often very deeply, and we know empirically that fertility does actually rise when economic and policy support for childbearing increases, indicating not just a stated but a revealed preference. And yet, fertility is falling far below what people say they want. . . . Most people want to get married, and most at a reasonably youthful age (not twenty perhaps, but not thirty-seven either): and yet fewer people are getting married, and more of them are marrying later than they would have liked.

In fact, Stone points out, American women across the socioeconomic spectrum desire marriage and children, at rates that have not changed very much over the past few decades. But women, especially those with lower incomes and levels of education, are less likely to achieve those goals:

What, then, is to be done? . . . First, any coherent demographic agenda has got to think about more than just fertility. Confronting demographic decline means dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, because drug and alcohol abuse contributes to criminality, to unemployment, to non-marriageability, to lost years of health, and ultimately to premature death.

Policies should be designed to keep marriage penalties to a minimum: getting married should not lead a couple to pay extra taxes, or lose benefits on which they depend.

And finally, there is fertility. Supporting marriage and tackling serious health threats would already help to boost fertility, but some additional support is likely necessary. Child allowances and family leave are the standard recipe for pronatalism, and they do tend to boost fertility. But they are limited in total effect and come at a considerable cost. Other policy approaches are needed too: housing costs can be mitigated through liberalized zoning policies, for example, which would have a considerable impact on fertility, since housing costs are a key element of the cost of raising children. School-voucher programs may also help some families.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: American society, Demography, Fertility


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount