The recent slowdown in the U.S. birth rate has resulted in much hand-wringing about our nation’s future (e.g. here, here, and here). Instead of yielding to these dark prognostications, let’s take advantage of this situation, which could be more optimistically viewed as an opportunity. There are some clear advantages to the decline in U.S. births—which is occurring in all age groups of women 15–44 but is most pronounced among teens. And the challenges that slower population growth may pose can be successfully addressed by disrupting the status quo when it comes to our investment in future generations of workers and tax-payers.
Indeed, if the question is where the productive workforce needed for our nation’s future will come from, let’s focus on lifting up the millions of children here in the U.S. who live in poverty—children who disproportionately represent communities of color.
President Biden has taken a major step in this direction by promoting and signing the $1.9 billion coronavirus relief legislation, which includes a dramatic increase in child tax credits. This will remove barriers that often block kids from having the kind of lives we all want for our children.
Here in the U.S., one in ten of us live in poverty. Expansion of child tax credits could prove a great benefit for society by dramatically reducing the poverty rate. When you live in a state of constant worry about accessing quality health care, avoiding eviction, hunger, or food insecurity, when you can’t pay the bills, or barely earn enough money to get by even with two jobs, it’s hard to see the future clearly and make confident decisions about anything.
Consider the more than 10 million U.S. children who are trapped in poverty—71% of them children of color. Often, they suffer from poor health due to lack of adequate nutrition and medical care. Even before they begin school, too many lag behind other students in terms of developmental and intellectual milestones. Their parents are often so stressed out from working long hours that they can’t give their children needed care and attention. As teenagers, kids who grow up in poverty drop out of school at a higher rate than those in middle- or high-income households. This is a formula for generational social inequality at every level, especially when more financially fortunate adolescents are playing sports and preparing for college.
Even setting aside the deep personal toll here, this represents an extraordinary waste of potential for a society that needs sophisticated, productive workers to compete in the Information Age.
The legislation signed by President Biden will slash the poverty rate for children in the United States by about 50%. This will mean healthier children. It will mean they’ll advance farther in school. And it will also mean the next generation will be far better equipped to succeed in tomorrow’s complex society where America needs more highly skilled workers.
John Seager, President and CEO of Population Connection, has been interviewed by radio stations around the country this summer on the topic of lower fertility and slower population growth in the United States. The complete list of his interviews is below (with more interviews happening all the time), along with clips where available—click the buttons to hear the audio. Thanks for listening!
9/20/21: Mary Jane Popp, Sacramento, CA, KAHI-AM/KAHI-FM
9/13/21: WPHM-AM, Paul Miller, Port Huron, MI, and Detroit, MI
9/2/21: KTRC-AM/KTRC-FM, “The Richard Eeds Show,” Santa Fe, NM
8/20/21: (NPR) “The Measure of Everyday Life” with Dr. Brian Southwell, Raleigh/Durham, NC
8/12/21: (NPR) “The WGVU Morning Show” with Shelly Irwin, Grand Rapids, MI
8/10/21: WGTD-FM with Greg Berg, (Wisconsin Public Radio affiliate), Kenosha/Racine, WI
8/9/21: KGO-AM with Mark Thompson, San Francisco, CA (Interview starts at minute 19!)
8/9/21: Delmarva Public Radio with Don Rush, Salisbury/Eastern Shore, MD, Maryland Regional
7/19/21: “The Laura Coates Show,” SiriusXM Radio, P.O.T.U.S. Channel 124
7/9/21: John Liddle, NewsRadio 1080 KRLD, Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
7/8/21: Tony Marino, News 96.5 WDBO, Orlando, FL
6/30/21: Roy Burnette, WRGC, Sylva, NC, and WBHN, Bryson City, NC
6/30/21: Bob Gourley, “Issues Today,” nationally syndicated to 80 + radio stations
We’ve also been pitching opinion pieces to newspapers around the country. Here’s a list of the ones that have been published so far:
- Elaine Gorman and John Seager, “Smaller families could help Modesto and California cope with crises,” The Modesto Bee, Modesto, CA, August 27, 2021
- John Seager, “How smaller families can benefit our country,” The Morning Call, Allentown, PA, July 26, 2021
- Marian Starkey, “Let’s fully fund international family planning on World Population Day,” The Hill, Washington, DC, July 11, 2021
- Marian Starkey, “Let’s Celebrate a Lower Birthrate, Not Lament It,” The New York Times, June 5, 2021