Destiny and demographics
Why don't secular people in wealthy countries have kids?
We had an interesting discussion in the comments yesterday. Subscribers: If you don’t join or at least read the comments, you’re missing one of the benefits of paying for a subscription. Unlike every other comment section on the Internet, ours is not a sewer. It’s lively, friendly, and intelligent, and often, it’s where I accidentally write a bonus essay. I never mean to do that. But sometimes I reply to someone and realize that what I’ve written was more interesting than what I’d planned to send out that day. So do check out the comments, meet other subscribers, make friends. Anyone who pays to read the Cosmopolitan Globalist is probably someone who enjoys thinking about the same things you do.
The conversation arose in response to the item I posted the other day about South Korea’s demographic disappearance: Korea’s plunging birthrate alarms government. Total fertility—the number of children per women—plunged to .78 last year, which is astonishing. The replacement rate is 2.1. In Japan, the number was .81. This is obviously catastrophic for the country’s future, and it’s catastrophic for its economy, right now: South Korea is confronting massive manpower shortages. I remarked of the article that the population bust Peter Zeihan warned about is here, and I said:
This seems to happen to every country that industrializes and no one knows what to do about. (Yes, Israel is an exception, but until recently, so was the United States. Israel will probably have the same problem soon enough.)
In response, our reader WigWag wrote:
Devout people make babies; secular people don’t. It’s really that simple. As the United States becomes more secular, its birth rate will continue to decline. Israel has one of the highest birth rates in the world because the ultra-Orthodox routinely have more than six children per couple. That’s double the rate of the rest of Israel’s Jewish population and three times the rate of secular Israeli Jews. The religious Zionist population (less observant than the ultra-Orthodox, but observant nonetheless, also have a very high birth rate. Israel’s secular population (the citizens freaking out over a minor judicial reform) has a much lower birth rate than the rest of the nation’s Jewish population and its Arab minority. Secular Jews in Israel are likely to enter a demographic tailspin just as reform and secular Jews in the United States have. Societies that eschew religion are committing demographic suicide all over the world.
No comment on the part about “freaking out over a minor judicial reform.” To my surprise, though, I actually agreed with the rest of his remarks. You can read my long response to him here, and to make it even easier, I’ll append it below, slightly edited for clarity.1 But on reflection, I think this theory is incomplete. And on further reflection, I think the theory is wrong.
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