As a kid, I remember driving to the beach on hot summer nights in July and August after my father came home from work. There wasn’t a lot of time before the sun went down and mosquitoes came out, but neighborhood kids would pile out of the family car (most had only one car back then), drop their towels, and run to the water. I was reminded of this recently as I’ve been spending a few hot, summer evenings at a local beach in South Portland, Maine, after working all day fixing up the house my wife and I recently purchased as an investment. A few young parents would bring their children down in the late afternoon and then take them home again for supper.
More numerous, however, were people who brought their dogs. They would have been young parents two generations ago but now they’re pet owners. Arriving at the edge of the sand, they’d let their dogs off leash and they’d run to the water’s edge, then back to their owners. Soon, it became evident how greatly dogs outnumbered children.
The children seemed to know each other as did the dogs; it was a neighborhood beach. They were all fairly well-behaved and had a good time, but I couldn’t help thinking about what a major cultural shift I was witnessing.
Have you noticed how many young couples are getting dogs instead of having children? They’re putting off babies, or they’ve decided they don’t want children at all. Children are a lot of work – a lot of commitment. They’re expensive. They live longer than dogs too, and they demand much more time and attention. They require self-sacrifice. But what’s to become of us all if this trend continues?
I was one of eight children. That’s why they call mine the Baby Boom Generation. My wife and I had four children, but we have only four grandchildren so far. There might be one or two more to come along, but our grown children are like others of their generation: they have only one or two children – or none. They have dogs instead.
Writing about the economic implications of this, columnist Mark Steyn uses Greece, Europe’s economic basket case, where their fertility rate is way below replacement level, as an example: “100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren,” he points out. “i.e., the family tree is upside down.”
Why is this happening? Talking to other aging baby boomers the conversation inevitably turns to family and I hear a similar lament. Fellow boomers are taking care of their grown children’s dogs instead of the grandchildren they’d rather care for but don’t have.
When I’ve asked them why their children are not having children, I hear: “They cannot afford them. They want to buy property instead. They want to travel. They don’t want to stretch out their bodies in pregnancy. They want to concentrate on their careers. They’re afraid of what is happening in the world and don’t want to bring children into it. They think the world is over-populated and don’t want to add to it. They think having children will stress the environment. They think there won’t be enough food for everyone,” et cetera, et cetera.
Fewer of the people who can afford to have children are having them, while more of the people who cannot afford them are. Government has subsidized generations of low-income, single women who bear children and yet we wonder why that demographic increases. In 1950, the rate was 2% of all births among white women and 17% among black women. During my lifetime, the rate has increased to 29% among white women and 73% among blacks!
Since 1973, there have been more than 45 million abortions in the United States alone. If those babies were allowed to be born, would the above numbers be even worse? I suspect they would.
So the trend is that married couples are having fewer children while low-income, single women are having more. As a teacher between 1975 and 2011, I witnessed first-hand the effects this demographic trend has had on public education and it hasn’t been good. What are the effects on American culture?
You already know, don’t you?
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Tom McLaughlin is a (now retired) history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam.