‘Patently unnatural’

In an earlier thread, I talked about how the tendency to delay marriage — part of a materialist/careerist culture I call “middle-classness” — undermines “family values.” A commenter directed me to an article in which Rebecca Teti addresses the same subject, repeating a reader’s observation:

The average first marriage now involves a 25-year-old bride and a 27-year-old groom. As an old natural-childbirth instructor, I’m intrigued by how patently unnatural that is. God designed our bodies to desire to mate much earlier, and through most of history, cultures have accommodated that desire by enabling people to wed by their late teens or early twenties.

Middle-classness effectively requires that marriage be delayed past the prime childbearing years. Demographers will tell you that, worldwide, peak fertility for women is 16 to 24. And during the Baby Boom, this was true for American women. Using the Census Bureau’s International Database to find age-specific fertility, we see that in 1960 — just past the 1957 peak of the Baby Boom — the numbers (expressed as births per 1,000 women in each age group) looked like this:

U.S. FERTILITY 1960
Age 15-19: 89.1
Age 20-24: 258.1
Age 25-29: 197.4
Age 30-34: 112.7
Age 35-39: 56.2
Age 40-44: 15.5
Age 45-49: 0.9
Total fertility rate (TFR): 3.6495

TFR is the average number of lifetime births per woman at the current rate. In 1960, the typical American woman would bear 47% of her children before reaching age 25. Now, compare this to the numbers for 1980 and 2000:

U.S. FERTILITY 1980
Age 15-19: 54.1
Age 20-24: 115.1
Age 25-29: 112.9
Age 30-34: 61.9
Age 35-39: 19.8
Age 40-44: 3.9
Age 45-49: 0.2
Total fertility rate (TFR): 1.8395

U.S. FERTILITY 2000
Age 15-19: 57.3
Age 20-24: 112.1
Age 25-29: 112.6
Age 30-34: 85.2
Age 35-39: 35.9
Age 40-44: 7.1
Age 45-49: 0.3
Total fertility rate (TFR): 2.0583

So, we see that in 20 years after 1960, TFR declined 49.5%. Over the next 20 year, it increased by 11.9% (mainly due to the addition of Hispanic immigrants, who have much higher fertility rates than non-Hispanics).

If we compare 1960 and 2000, what really stands out is the dramatic decrease in childbearing by women under 25. Birth rates for those 15-19 declined by 36%, while births for those 20-24 declined by 57%.

There is a common myth that goes something like this: “Well, OK, so we’re putting off parenthood a few years. So what? We’ll make up for it later.” In terms of overall fertility, however, the numbers answer: “Oh, no you won’t.”

As demographers say, “Fertility delayed is fertility denied,” and you see that, comparing 1960 and 2000, fertility declines in every age bracket — down 24% among women 30-34 and down 36% among women 35-39, for example. Even a woman’s chance of giving birth to a “miracle baby” past age 40 was higher in 1960 than it is now, despite all the scientific advances in fertility treatments. And despite the sharp decline in birth rates for those under age 25, births to women ages 15-24 still account for 41% of total fertility.

This is the cruel arithmetic of the culture of death — otherwise known as middle-classness.

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