The United States had enough of a surge in baby-having last year to reach the magic number of 2.1 babies per woman, the average needed to keep the population steady. No other industrialized nation is near that number and some, especially Japan and Italy with fertility rates of 1.3, are scarily low. Mike Stobbe's Associated Press story reaches first for the "babies are bad" story line -- poor, uneducated people had babies because they couldn't get abortions or didn't have sense enough for birth control, or immigrants come to have babies so their kids can be citizens. If only were were Europeans, the story runs, then we could have better family support -- and fewer kids.
Buried in the story, though, is a happier suggestion: we are having more babies because we want to. We like babies. We are more optimistic and more religious. Mexican women in Mexico have 2.4 children, but when they come here they see a brighter future, and have 3.2. The most religious regions of the country, the South and Midwest, have the highest fertility rates. And "white American women have more children than white European -- even though many nations in Europe have more family-friendly government policies on parental leave and child care."
We are now having the same number of babies per year that we did in the Baby Boom years (about four million annually), despite having more than a million abortions a year.
We have had boomlets before -- we had a couple of years in the early '90s that matched this number of births. If we have the predicted recession, the birth rate will probably go down a bit. Still, NATO demography is a doom and gloom story. Except for us.