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The Washington Post recently had some coverage of the Brookings Institution report referenced above.


I thought they drew an interesting parallel between the recent data from last winter and historical data from the 1918 flu pandemic, when there were three distinct peaks in cases / deaths and three corresponding dips in the birth rate.

I think the social norms aspect impacting the continued low birth rate in China is super interesting.

I found this article (https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/defa43d0-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/defa43d0-en) explaining that Korea has also witnessed a continual decreasing birth rate, attributed to both pronounced labor market dualism (contributing to economic insecurity) and also changing social norms, such as an increase in educational levels leading to changes in life aspirations and an overall postponement in marriage.

The article mentions how this low birth rate is exemplified in metropolitan areas like Seoul. Anecdotally, when I witnessed how social norms influence birth rate when I lived in Manhattan. I think that the increased level of education, greater life aspirations, and postponement of marriage contributes to a lower regional birth rate in comparison to rural areas in the US. I remember a coworker once telling a story of how her sister had a baby so young (at the age of 27) and comparing that to many of my friends back in Ohio who already had 1-2 toddlers by that age.

I definitely believe that there is much evidence that the social norms established by the One-Child Policy are still affecting lower birth rates in China.

I found an interesting Bloomberg article (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-01-17/why-china-is-struggling-to-boost-its-birthrate-quicktake) that provides additional insight on why the birth rate is still so low, besides the cultural norms and income and education level. According to the article and Humans Rights Watch, China forced women to have abortions to abide to the one-child policy. This policy and enforcement left social scars.

Another reason why birth rates are still low is the time and financial constraint. This reasoning can apply to lower birth rates in many parts of the world. As the traditional familial structure is changing and women have their own careers, women may not feel that they have the time or financial security to have more kids. According to the article, “a commission created by the U.S. Congress found working women face ‘severe discrimination’ from employers, especially surrounding pregnancy and maternity benefits.” Until better benefits and laws are implemented for women, this downward trend may continue.

I completely agree that social norms/scars and financial constraints are contributing to the continued decline in birth rates. Even with the policies now allowing as many as three children, incentives to young families, and promising improvement in workplace rules and early education, the declining birth rate has not reversed. In fact, the original one-child policy has backfired slightly from its intended purpose of promoting economic growth since there are now fewer women reaching childbearing age. When you combine social scars with fewer women even being able to give birth, it is no wonder the birth rate continues to fall.

With respect to this being a huge source of concern for the future of the country, this New York Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/17/world/asia/china-births-demographic-crisis.html ) has some fascinating insights. One that struck me was: "The falling birthrate, coupled with the increased life expectancy that has accompanied China’s economic transformation over the last four decades, means the number of people of working age, relative to the growing number of people too old to work, has continued to decline. That could result in labor shortages, which could hamper economic growth, and reduce the tax revenue needed to support an aging society."

Finally, with respect to the environmental impact of falling birth rates, I found this article titled "Why declining birth rates are good news for life on Earth" (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jul/08/why-declining-birth-rates-are-good-news-for-life-on-earth ). The article seems to argue against policies that cap childbirths and instead argues that rather than deny yourself children if you want them, it is better to have one or two and raise them as environmentally conscious consumers. The article states, which I agree with, policies limiting carbon emissions and plastic waste would be far more effective and timely tools for undoing or at least mitigating the damage we’ve done to the planet.

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