Why birth rate decrease is critical for our future
We have less kids. Why does it happen? Is it bad? Below are few ideas I’d like to share.
Why birth rate is decreasing?
- Making kids is fun, and nature made it so to encourage our eternity. Kids are made to pass and preserve family’s genes. In old times having 5 (and much more) kids was normal because 2 of them would die before age of 5, other 2 may die on the war and the last one could possibly be lucky enough to live till his 50s. Few things have changed since those times. Most importantly, kids don’t die before school at the same rate as it was before. On top of that our life expectancy for those who survive the childhood went up. Both phenomena are shown on the charts below. Let’s focus first on life expectancy
- Let’s imagine John. He was born in 1950 and today he is 20 years old. He wants his daughter Jenny (she is not born yet) to establish her life before he dies. Life expectancy of those born in 1950 is not very aspirational, so he expects to die after he reaches 50 years old. John assumes that it will take Jenny 25 years to establish her life and she will need his help: money to graduate from college, connections to find a first job and wise advice on choosing a husband. 50–25=25. Jenny will be born before John reaches 25.
- Now imagine me. I was born in 1992 and today I’m almost 25. I want my yet unborn daughter Mira (I love this name) to establish her life before I pass away. Although I’m an ambitious guy, I won’t argue with statistics saying that my life expectancy is 66 years. Let’s say that it will take some 25 years for Mira to become self-contained lady. Also, I would be happy to see her kids. I will assume that she will have her first kid at 30. With all else being equal, I will become father at 36. (frankly saying, I think I will become a father earlier, but still).
This logic is pretty straight-forward and it feels like it works this way. Our life expectancy determines the age when we have kids.
Kids death rate.
In a perfect world no kid dies. In 1967 world 18% of kids die before 5 years birthday. Today this number is 4%. Still high. Let’s adjust birth rates by the mortality under-5 factor and we will see how much was it’s contribution in 1967 and in 2015. Adjusted green line represents the birth rate of those lucky kids who will survive more than 5 years. The spread between adjusted (green) and unadjusted (blue) lines represents the contribution of up-mentioned factor and it’s shrinking — there is almost no spread in 2015.
We live longer life and we have less kids. It will change our society.
Yet nobody knows how. Let’s fantasize a bit:
- Such notions as “young” and “old” will change. Today we are young before 25 and old after 65 when our life expectancy is 72. If our life expectancy will reach 100 years, we will be young before 33 and old after 90. 57 years to build career and family instead of 37! I need those 20 years.
- People older than 65 will represent a majority of our society (today they represent 8%). After living 65 years people usually are more conservative but at the same time they have substantial experience and wisdom. It is interesting how this shift will impact social contracts such as elections.
- We will probably face the problem of death rates exceeding birth rates. In other words, our population will start shrinking. Key question there — is it that bad? I personally think that probably it’s not, if we transfer all our human knowledge to the technology. Technology in it’s turn will become the next step of evolution (read more: Ray Kurzweil). I’ve extrapolated birth and death rates decrease with the same pace as it happened in 2015. This projection doesn’t include any other factor than those two. If it’s correct, it means that we are already close (88 years) to the “equilibrium”- point at which birth rate will be equal to death rate.
We have only 88 years to prepare our society for this jump. What is 88 years? It’s almost a life expectancy of the baby born on this planet today. It is just one life. How would you spend it?