Archive for the ‘Recession’ category

Economics and birth rates

October 28, 2012

Do religious conservatives actually think before expressing their views on demographics?

I ask, because there seems to a sizeable percentage of religious conservatives who believe that birth rates are inversely related to prosperity.

Certainly birth rates tend to be lower in rich countries than poor countries, but that doesn’t mean they’re lower because of greater economic opportunities.

The recent recession is a strong case in point. According to the logic of religious conservatives, westerners should have been having more children over the last five years since jobs are scarcer and wages are lower, so there’s been more incentive for women to stay at home and have children. But this hasn’t happened. Instead, women in both Europe and North America have had even fewer children, and the modest increase in birth rates that occurred just before the recession has abruptly ended. According to one estimate, at least 20 percent of US adults between 18 and 34  have consciously delayed having children because of the recession.

This is basically the same pattern that occurred in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Birth rates fell significantly during the tough times, and then increased when the economy picked up at the end of WWII. They then continued at a high rate until birth control arrived and the 1970s recession slowed down the economy.

Similarly, birth rates are now also declining in the Middle East, which is struggling with high food prices, and a lack of jobs for young males.

So religious conservatives are wrong – people do have more kids when the economy improves and less when the economy gets worse. It’s also important to bear in mind that just because we live in an affluent age doesn’t mean we live in an age of economic security. Out-sourcing, free markets, and the increased use of temporary labour, may not had reduced prosperity per se, but they have made a lot of people’s work lives much more insecure, and economic insecurity is a big turn off for young people contemplating having children.

Some conservatives cite the high birth rates of immigrants from poor countries as evidence that prosperity reduces birth rates. Newly arrived immigrants from poor countries have lots of babies, so poverty must increase fertility. The difference here is that these immigrants are moving from a poor country to a rich country, so they having rising economic expectations, as well as access to health and welfare services that may be unavailable in their home country. So this line of reasoning doesn’t hold when you’re looking at affluent natives who are facing the depressing prospect of getting poorer.

Education is another overrated factor in birth rates. Sure, university does take up time and money that could otherwise be spent on family formation, but if all the men and women who went to university got high-paying jobs when they graduated, then they would still have plenty of time and money to pay off their debts and raise families, and would have more money with which to do it.

The problem is that education is in many respects a symptom of economic decline – people go to university in the increasingly desperate hope of getting a higher paying job in a competitive job market, only to find there aren’t enough high paying jobs for graduates either.

If education is lowering birth rates, it’s because too many people are getting unmarketable degrees in a weak job market and the combination of being over-educated and underemployed is making it even harder to start a family

I don’t what the best solutions to the West’s population decline are, since population  decline is due to a range of factors that are difficult to untangle, but I’m pretty sure that impoverishing people isn’t one of them.


Money versus Ethnocentrism

July 15, 2012

Jim Goad’s recent article at Taki’s Magazine on the power of ethnocentrism has got me wondering whether there any social forces more powerful than ethnocentrism.

Religion and money are the only likely contenders since these are about the only other things people will willingly die for. Some might say that family is more important than ethnicity, but family is really just a subset of ethnicity.

People will often betray their race or country for money, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of wealthy businessmen (and women) who put pressure on their governments to import cheap labour. Here in Australia, aesthetically challenged mining mogul Gina Rinehart (pictured below) and retail big wig Gerry Norman, are among those keen to flood their country with unwanted third world immigrants in the name of big business.

It’s a similar case with left-wing liberals, who are keen to promote the virtues of multiculturalism since it offers them the potential for work opportunities as civil servants, social workers, charity workers and other agents of the therapeutic state.

This all sounds wonderful for enterprising “post-racial” liberals, but there’s a big problem with relying on money – there’s just never enough of it to go round, and some people will always miss out.

Take for example the victims of affirmative action. If you provide someone with an affirmative job or college placement, then by definition you must be denying another person an opportunity, and therefore that other person will need to be compensated. If they don’t get compensation, then chances are they will be resentful and angry at having to make a sacrifice for someone else. One way in which affirmative action victims articulate such resentment is by switching their voting patterns from the left to right, which partly explains why so many working class white males in America now vote for the centre right.

Furthermore, in recessionary times like today, there are even greater numbers of people who are socially or economically frustrated by multiculturalism, but unfortunately for liberal elites, there is less money around to compensate them. The recent Occupy Wall Street movement highlighted that even many idealistic left liberals are now more concerned with their own careers (or lack of them) than they are about the social plight of minorities and foreigners.

In Western Europe, liberal governments have been compensating the victims of multiculturalism through welfare. Perhaps the most remarkable example of this can be seen in Spain, where both immigration and unemployment are very high, but the native population hasn’t got very uppity about third world immigration. To meet its austerity targets though, Spain is now having to get tougher on welfare and is apparently restricting unemployment benefits to six months.

It’s going to be very interesting to see if the Spanish authorities can stop race relations from boiling over when a big chunk of the native population lacks the cushioning effects of welfare to protect it from the full impact of multiculturalism.

Graduate over supply in teaching getting worse

May 26, 2012

Although the Commonwealth’s corporatised universities continue to churn out large numbers of teaching graduates, supply has rapidly saturated demand as over-hyped boomer retirement predicitions have failed to create enough openings for new graduates. In Ontario Canada for example, graduate unemployment is now running at 68 percent. An Ontario schools superindentant claims that even if Ontario stops training teacher’s entirely, it still won’t have a teacher shortage for at least 5 years.

It’s a similar story in New Zealand with large numbers of teachers being laid off by the Canterbury earthquake, and in Australia for that matter , but no slowdown in the number of graduates coming out of the teacher’s colleges (which are now run by the corporatised universities). The recession is also putting pressure on governments to increase class sizes, which will only add to graduate unemployment.

Of course it wasn’t always this way. In the 1980s, supply and demand were kept in reasonable balance since teaching colleges were run in the public interest and didn’t take on graduates if they didn’t think they could find them teaching placements after graduation.

Western governments have wasted billions of dollars on mismanaging tertiary education in easy times, but now they’re finding everything is interconnected and mismanagement of one sector of the economy will also create big problems elsewhere.


Birth rates increasing among the one percenters

April 22, 2012

Ever on the lookout for man bites dog stories, liberal columnists have been claiming that the wealthy are having more children.

Well apparently there is some truth to claim. In the US at least, the top 1-2 percent are having more children. Further down the income ladder though, the news isn’t so good.

The recession is having an adverse effect on birth rates among educated women, while poorly educated women continuing to have more offspring than their graduate counterparts.