European fertility is collapsing. No country in Western Europe has enough babies to sustain its population. For stability, a population needs 2.1 children per fertile women. France and Ireland are doing well to reach fertility rates of 1.7. Britain and Sweden at least make it to 1.5 – a rate that cuts the population in half in less than three generations. Austria and Italy have sunk to 1.3, which should halve their population in a generation or so.
The United States, as in many things, is halfway between Europe and the global South in vitality measures. Our birthrate as a whole has gone back up to almost replacement level, at 2.06. Yet within the United States, several states have European-like rates of no marriage and no kids -- California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and, especially, Massachusetts.
Maggie Gallagher reports these figures, from demographer Ron Lesthaeghe, in her February 28 syndicated column. She notes a correlation between the places that don't produce enough babies and the leaders in legalizing same-sex marriage.
I noticed a different correlation. The places without enough babies – to which we can add Japan (fertility rate: 1.32) – are also the richest places on earth. The low fertility states in America are also the richest ones. As I noted in "Should We Skip Kids in Order to Get Rich?" economists have already noticed that you will probably end up richer if you don't have kids. These demographic numbers suggest that rich nations are, in effect, making the same calculation.
Whoever dies with the most toys, still dies. Whichever nation has the most toys but the fewest kids, dies from the earth.