|US Labor Force Participation Rate|
OK, so that's the theory, and it's held up quite well over the years. However, many developed countries are now entering a twilight zone characterized by vanishing economic prospects and diminished expectations for the future where most believe that the standard of living of future generations will be lower than current generations for obvious reasons. In the face of such difficulties, could a "reverse demographic transition" occur in which parents have more children again to assure them that at least one will make it and help provide for them in their old age?
Well, no. The United States provides some insights. Actually, the total fertility rate--the number of children a woman bears--fell to 1.89 in 2012. This is well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. In other words, if this trend continues, the United States will indeed suffer from depopulation, "Detroitification," unless migration can compensate. Looking into Census figures, it is indeed the case that current projections the US population will reach 420 million in 2060 are predicated on large-scale increases in migration. (Read the fine print.) In the absence of migration reform, though, I am not certain that the politics will necessarily be in place for that to happen.
All this brings us to the likely culprit for birth decline. Simply put, there are few jobs out there in America right now, and most of those which are available are of the low-skilled variety. Yes, the US has become a nation of burger flippers--employment statistics amply demonstrate that. With low-paying, short-lasting jobs becoming the norm, couples do not have enough security in raising families. Wages have been falling for over a decade, and there is little reason to believe they will rise significantly anytime soon. I disagree with Paul Krugman about the causes of this poor job situation--which is actually much worse when you account for women joining the labor force in large numbers in recent decades. Still, we can agree that America is, well, doomed.
How exactly a nation of burger flippers whose young people struggle just to find jobs of ever-decreasing remuneration is going to support droves of greedy seniors is beyond me. So is the point of higher education if all you will do is flip burgers for that matter.
Oh by the way, do you want fries with that?