Women and population decline

This lengthy New York Times article, looking at why many European nations (Italy, Germany to name a couple) have alarmingly low birthrates, might shed a little more light on population loss in Upstate New York. The factor that is most examined is why young people are leaving the area (and presumably having babies elsewhere, since America’s overall birth rate is not really in trouble). Less examined is the birthrate in Upstate communities. Are women who stay here having more, less, or the same number of babies? And does it really matter?

Researchers find that European women who join the work force — and have husbands who participate more in child-rearing — are more likely to have more kids. Women who don’t have economic control over their situation (i.e., stay at home and don’t work) and who get less help with the kids from their husbands (or from the community) will be less inclined to have more than one. It’s not surprising that when faced with a combination of economic and social conditions that are less favorable for raising children, women (under various personal rationales) will choose not to reproduce.

It may seem strange, then, that women from some poorer communities would have more than one child; but this possibly has something to do with community differences. It could be about access to birth control, obviously, but also whether the woman feels there is enough of a safety net – in the context of their own immediate community standards for the work of raising children. Ironically, some women from more affluent backgrounds may be less likely to feel there is that safety net.

(The article has other relevant points for Upstate – about urban planning and economic adaptation – so check it out.)

One Reply to “Women and population decline”

  1. As the mother of four, and friend of many, many mothers, I’d say economic factors rate quite low in the decision to have children (or not). It really depends on the mother, her love and desire to have children, and her perception of the stability of her marriage. Just my two cents.

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