Mamma mia...what was Malthus thinking?
As the stereotype goes, Italians have big families, right? This morning NPR did a story on Italy's population problem where they quoted some surprising numbers: right now people over the age of 65 outnumber people under the age of 15, and, based on this trend, some predict that by 2050 the 57.5 million Italians will shrink by over 12 million. Italy's birth rate, among the lowest in the world, hovers at 1.3 babies per woman (compared to 2.07/woman in the US). Experts have given a few reasons for the decline:
1. Italy's increased affluence and easier access to education.
2. A delayed transition to adulthood. (You'd be amazed at how many 30 year olds I knew in Italy who were as dependant on their mom as I was at age 14)
3. A lack of child care facilities
4. An absence of state incentives to have bigger families. (Because of Italy's history of facism, a lot of politicians are reluctant to pass seemingly authoritarian policies to encourage family growth.)
5. The feminist revolution in Italy was especially strong.
6. One of the most interesting reasons I found was in a study done by demographer Letizia Mencarini. She argues that part of the decline in childbirth is due to Italian men. Because less than 6% help with household chores, women feel overly burdened by child-rearing. The men won't help with kids, so the women don't want any.
Sure these are interesting facts, but really, if Italians don't want to make babies what does it matter? It doesn't, really, unless Italy wants to hold on to the affluence that created this baby-bust. According to some experts, this growing number of old-folks (my word, not theirs) and an amazingly generous pension system could lead to the country's financial collapse.
While in the United States this problem isn't nearly as dramatic, the baby boomers retiring may presents us with similar problems about social security. And it seems that American women are waiting more to have children and having less when they do. What do you guys make of this? Do you think Italy is an exception and we don't fit that mold? (not just as LDS, but more as americans) What do you make of the fact that while birthrates in Europe are in decline, they remain astronomically high in the third-world and middle east? Assuming things stay the same, what do you imagine the demographics of the world to look like in 100 or 200 years? Any implications for LDS people? Your thoughts please.