Letter to the Editor: Demography is Destiny

Dear Editor,

The recent article “Demography is Destiny” shortened a point I had made to the author about the demographic trends.

The first trend, known as the First Demographic Transition, is the worldwide reduction in birth rates and their impact on labor markets, economies, and societies, all of which Eberstadt covered in detail. Another point he covered, though less fully, pertains to a second, distinct and more recent phenomena, the Second Demographic Transition, which is the increasing percentage of people who neither marry nor have children at all. This second trend will have three important effects. First, it will result in a tremendous shift of elderly care from family care to society (typically government) since fewer people will have family to care for them. The rise in costs is likely to create political tensions both due to the cost and because the transfers from workers to retirees will be in a setting of weaker intergenerational connections. Finally, these will generally reduce the sense of marriage and family as a typical part of life and may create further incentives to neither marry nor have children and make it harder for many people to do both. These trends are of concern to the Catholic Church given the primacy it places on the family for the caring of children and elderly and the fostering of relationships.

In the article, these impacts were not included. The second trend (rising percentage of people neither marrying nor having children) was mentioned, with the statement that these were in contrast to important Catholic values. This left these important impacts unmentioned, and could leave the impression that the Church’s position was in regard simply to people’s decisions about marriage and children.


John Larrivee

Bolte School of Business

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