JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: PUTIN’S CHARMING CUSTOM OF HAVING VERY LARGE FAMILIES TO DINNER – BUT THE INEVITABILITY OF POPULATION DECLINE IN ADVANCING NATIONS – LONG-TERM REALITIES OF DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION

John Chuckman

COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN RUSSIA INSIDER

 

“Want To Have Dinner With Putin? Have 7 Kids and Become a Russian Citizen and You’re In!

“Let Western media label these photos as “creepy”; we find Putin’s personal interest in traditional families–and the families themselves–downright charming. What do you think?”

 

I find this charming.

However, I do not really believe such practices can turn around birth rates.

As societies advance, births decline, always.

It is a universal experience.

Declining births represent real economic incentives.

With better medicine and food, people come to understand that most babies will survive.

That, of course, was not always the case.

Babies died in large numbers, so people responded by having more of them.

Rural farmers also saw a large family as a kind of guarantee for their old age and decline, young people with strong backs to keep the farm going.

But part of modernity, a big part, is people leaving farms for cities. Farms become consolidated and run as huge corporate enterprises, with lots of the best machinery and with limited need for workers.

Except at picking time, a time in most places where migrant labor comes in temporarily to do the job.

But technology may even end that because new kinds of harvesting and picking machines are invented regularly.

Also, traditional family farms cannot compete with vast corporate farm systems. Their costs are too high.

So traditional incentives for large farm families, over time, disappear. Of course, there are always little pockets here and there, but overall, that is the story.

New specialty crops can affect this somewhat for a time, as the organic farming in North America requires more intense labor and commands premium prices for crops and encourages some smaller farms.

But the effects of that cannot last as technology continues to do new tasks.

In cities, people want to pursue careers, including women, and having too many children is a serious barrier. Costs go up. work opportunity, especially for women, goes down.

And urban carers require a good deal of preparation too in the way of education, again an incentive against having children in any numbers.

So, young urban people generally do not want more than two kids.

Well, it is just a fact that if every couple in any country has only two kids, population will decline. Any degree of infant mortality, and there is always some, means the total couples have less than replaced themselves. And not everyone marries either.

Then, of course, given an increasingly good life with careers in cities and two incomes, there are many couples who will choose not to have children at all.

This whole phenomenon has a name in economics. It’s part of what is called Demographic Transition.

It is not a fanciful idea, but a reality, a concept proved in every advanced society.

When incentives for changed behavior are real – real as in “the real economy” economists speak of – then they can only ever be effectively countered by real counter-incentives.

That’s why many states give money to families with children, but it generally cannot be enough to compensate for the lost economic gains of having more children. It in fact costs many tens of thousands of dollars to raise just one child to adulthood, and if you add parents’ paying for higher education, a phenomenon of the late 20th century, you can add tens of thousands more. And then there is the lost income of a spouse who can’t work.

So, monetary incentives in general are not too helpful, simply because governments cannot afford to hand out sizeable incomes for those having children.

In the long term, and we see this in every advanced society in the world, only immigration can make up for declining births.

So, such celebrations as President Putin does are pleasant, and they communicate a certain sense of values, but they cannot make a really big difference in the long term.

The recent history of every modern North American, European, and Asian Rim country demonstrates it convincingly.

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Posted October 9, 2018 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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