How Do Nations Choose “Demographic Winter”? Is America Doing So?

World Congress of Families | Published on

By John D. Mueller

To watch a video of the complete panel on “Family and Demography,” please click here.

I’m honored to address the Fifth World Congress of Families in Amsterdam. In our panel on “Family and Demography,” I will try to answer two important questions: First, how do nations choose “demographic winter”? Second, is the United States now doing so? I will update the model of fertility I presented at the last World Congress of Families, to explain why the recipe for “demographic winter” is the same combination of legal abortion and high social benefits now advocated by President Barack Obama and a majority in Congress. If the share of social benefits in national income doubles as now projected, U.S. “demographic exceptionalism” will end, as the birth rate drops from 2.1 to less than 1.7. Yet fertility would rise and above the replacement rate, not only in the United States but also most other countries, by ending legal abortion.

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Causes and Cures of "Demographic Winter"

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By John D. Mueller

Panel remarks after screening of the film Demographic Winter: The decline of the human family.
Family Research Council, Washington, D.C. 12 May 2008

The film we have just viewed, Demographic Winter the decline of the human family, performs a great national service by elevating the biggest social, economic and even strategic challenge that the United States will face in coming decades. However, since it also makes the problem seem overly complicated, overlooks serious problems with theories of marriage and fertility advocated by authorities in the film, and ends on a very pessimistic note, while the second part dealing with solutions is not yet available, I will share with you the much simpler and more hopeful analysis I presented a year ago at the Fourth World Congress of Families in Warsaw. I’ll try briefly to do three things: first, sketch what I call the “neoscholastic” economic theory of the family; second, use it to identify the main reasons the birth rate is below the replacement rate in most of developed Europe and Asia while hovering near that rate in the United States; and finally, outline the basic principles that the United States must follow to avoid suffering its own “demographic winter.”

People and property
I begin by calling to your attention two highly significant features of family economics. The first is associated with economist and Nobel laureate Gary Becker, who was featured in the film; though the fact was actually first pointed out by Aristotle:(2) Household wealth is of two kinds, people and property–or as Theodore W. Schultz dubbed them around 1960, “human and nonhuman capital.”(3) As Schultz pointed out, both are “reproducible”; may be tangible or intangible; require maintenance; and depreciate. Just as property income is the return on investment in property, labor compensation is the return on investment in people.

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Family-Friendly Fiscal Policy to Weather "Demographic Winter"

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By John D. Mueller

**Remarks prepared for delivery to the Fourth World Congress of Families Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw, Poland.**

I’m honored to be here in sunny Warsaw, among so many old and new friends, to address the fourth World Congress of Families about family-friendly fiscal policy. (I will go beyond taxation because, for reasons I will explain, family-friendly fiscal policy must address social benefits as well as the taxes that typically pay for them.) I will try to do three things: first, briefly sketch the economics of the family; second, use it to explain why the birth rate has fallen below the replacement rate in most of developed Europe and Asia while hovering near the replacement rate in the United States; and finally, outline two basic principles of family-friendly fiscal policy that are necessary for any country (including the United States) to avoid or survive what has aptly been called “demographic winter.”

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The Barren Gamble of Same-Sex Unions

Family Policy Vol. 14, No. 2, March-April 2001, pp. 15-18. | Published on

By John D. Mueller

Few states are expected to follow the lead of Vermont and enact “civil unions” or domestic partnership legislation. Yet if faced with demands to be like the Green Mountain State, lawmakers in other states would be wise to commission economic impact statements to assess the potential fiscal and economic fallout. Judging from the economic legacy of the Supreme Court decision a generation ago that forced every state in the union to liberalize their respective abortion laws, changes in state social policy and especially marriage law are never economically neutral. In fact, reducing the legal status of marriage to anything other than a union between one man and one woman will actually work against the economic vitality of a state.

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The Stork Theory of Economics

Family Policy, January-February 2001 | Published on

By John D. Mueller

Many economists, even those who consider themselves conservative Republicans, have tended to look favorably on the movement of mothers out of the home and into the labor market during the last thirty years. The reasons for their position are varied, but at the core they reflect a fundamental clash of worldviews, one that might loosely be described as libertarian and the other as traditional. If all worldviews were equally valid and equally compatible with sound economic analysis, the holding of one worldview over another would make no more difference than one’s preference for juice over soda. But the unkind fact is that not all worldviews correspond equally to reality.

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