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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

78

Goodnight, Rich Babies

Since the average American woman has 2.1 children, you might think we aren't experiencing a national fertility crisis. Unlike some European countries whose futures are threatened by low birth rates, Americans, on average, produce just the right number of future workers, soldiers, and taxpayers to keep our society humming. Our families are also, on average, comfortably smaller than those in some developing countries, where high birthrates help keep women and children severely impoverished. But here's the problem: Because the American fertility rate is an average, it obscures the fact that our country is actually more like two countries, which are now experiencing two different, serious crises.

Poor women are having lots of children while rich women aren't, really. What does it mean?



78 Comments / Post A Comment

insouciantlover

Well, the middle class was a nice idea while it lasted.

wharrgarbl

It means that abstinence-only education and anti-child corporate policies are both terrible ideas.

jennfizz

@wharrgarbl: You beat me to it. This really doesn't seem all that complicated.

gfrancie

@wharrgarbl and that's church.

melis

Someone's going to make an Idiocracy joke; 4 people will like it and everyone else will kind of roll their eyes but not be that willing to get into it.

Barbara Gordon

@melis I'm just going to leave this here

melis

@Barbara Gordon Yes, leave it on the doorstep and back away quietly.

NeverOddOrEven

@melis If you don't mind indulging me, what's so bad about Idiocracy? I've never seen it but heard good things... I'm marginally familiar with the connection here.

melis

@NeverOddOrEven Oh it's quite a good movie! It's just over-referenced whenever someone discusses American social demographics and birth rates.

kayjay

@melis Dammit! I had it all lined up. Thanks for ruining everything EVERYTHING!

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@melis: While I enjoy Idiocracy, I will always wonder if that opening gag was... held back, or otherwise changed in some way. Like, they felt they had to portray the affluent couple as also idiots, in their own way, and gave them a rather ridiculous end game (compared to the not so embellished tale of the Clevon and co.)

I thought a much funnier, darker take would have had the singular child of the second couple end up being killed by the negligence of one of Clevon's spawn.

spex

"Pregnant woman holding crying girl while doing chores."

sox
sox

@spex And she's doing them wrong. She's going to suck up those toys in the vacuum and break it. A Clean Person, helllllp!

rararuby

@sox She's also barefoot with loose lego lying around - if she steps on one, that crying child is going to really have something to cry about.

iceberg

So what's the solution? Maybe if we had public healthcare, there would be less unplanned babies, and those who remain would be healthier and in a better position to move on up socio-economically?

Nah, that's COMMUNIST!!!

joie

well, if all those multitudes of poor kids just work really hard and pull themselves up by their frayed, Walmart bootstraps, they can be the next Bill Gates!

Megasus

@heyits Those Walmart bootstraps will break first.

joie

@Megan Patterson@facebook are you as ready as I am to start a commune in Iceland? this country is making me very sad.

Megasus

@heyits Can't it be somewhere warmer? A commune on a private island would also be pretty dope.

joie

@Megan Patterson@facebook Maybe Johnny Depp will sacrifice his private island for the cause!

New Hoarder

@Megan Patterson@facebook In the words of Iceland's assistant coach from Mighty Ducks 2: "Greenland is made of ice, and Iceland is very nice." I think you'd do very well indeed there.

Lady Pennyface

I still had the earlier Rich Santos post on my mind and when I read this post's title, I thought Rich had procreated. (Hairpin: "Good Night, Rich's Babies" Me: Nooooooooo!)

iceberg

@Lady Pennyface haha I did the same thing!

Edith Zimmerman

@Lady Pennyface I actually ... did the same thing when I was scrolling down the page. "Why does my Rich post have a spoon on it?"

meattubs

@Lady Pennyface What?! I missed a Rich Santos post??!! Reading that is way more important than trying to figure out where I, being childless, overly educated and poor, fit in this whole baby thing. brb.

Lady Pennyface

@meattubs Yes, quick, go read it! Can't try to fix the rich/poor divide and the shitty childcare options without first reading Rich's advice on how women should watch sports (which, unless you "truly enjoy sports," should be quietly or not at all).

No but for serious, this article was fricken depressing. In many ways.

meattubs

@Lady Pennyface Well, once again I feel slightly sorry for Rich and slightly like I want just shake the idiot out of him. I wonder if his mother was rich or poor. It makes all of the difference you know.

New Hoarder

@Lady Pennyface I don't even think you should be talking about Rich's article discussing women talking about sports. This post is about babies, and babies is what women do, period. Especially if you're poor.

Lady Pennyface

@New Hoarder Sorry. Sorry! Umm... onesies! Tiny socks that look like shoes! Stinky diapers, amirite?

bananab0at

OMG Idiocracy is coming true! I knew it!!

melis

Didn't even take 20 minutes. Christ.

H.E. Ladypants

@bananab0at Yes, because a lack of access to resources and insurance is surely a sign of intellectual stagnation. My oh my do I wish those dumb poor women would stop having babies!

(Sorry, I wanted to ignore it but that implication seriously sticks in my craw.)

spex

@melis No thumbs up so far, though.

bananab0at

@H.E. Ladypants I didn't mean/imply that everyone poor is dumb or whatever you're assuming. I was referring to the opening sequence of Idiocracy; some women focused on building careers & homes, & then, when they were ready to have children, they had difficulty conceiving. Have you guys seen Idiocracy?

melis

@bananab0at Yeah, although I think the opening sequence definitely implies that poor people are dumb. It's still a pretty good movie, but it's also been semi-hijacked by folks who use it to reinforce some pretty ugly classist beliefs. I think the OMG in your original comment mistakenly led us to believe you were leaning in that direction, and I now regret leading the commenting dogpile. Internet friends again?

ETA: "Um, you talk like a fag and your shit's all fucked up" gets me every time.

bananab0at

@melis I've actually never heard people invoke Idiocracy for any views whatsoever, but I did think the opening w/ the overeducated couple was interesting; I rewatched it several times... I guess b/c I relate to it & I'm panicked about fertility.

But yes I agree that the opening part w/ the poor trailer park family was a little... broad & didn't cover all the complexity & nuance of actual life. And, frankly, I didn't pay as much attention to it. I agree w/ you about that part, sure.

But I don't think my comment was ugly & classist. Maybe dumb...

Oh yes please let's be friends again! I really didn't want to feel like everyone was touchy & overly-PC here, b/c I maybe trust ya'll a little too much about everything? And YES that's the best part & Justin Long won my heart w/ it.

melis

@bananab0at IT'S GOT ELECTROLYTES

...and all was well again.

jule_b_sorry

@bananab0at Yah, I understood the opening but didn't really like it; my husband is from a perfect clone of the redneck trailerpark family and now he and I are the over-educated couple putting off children "b/c of the market". So, I think the presentation of a family tree for exponentially-reproducing morons wholly separate from the sparse fruit of the elite's family trees is needlessly reductionist.

bananab0at

@jule_b_sorry Hm that's a really good point. Although I guess - & at this point I'm theorizing on the spot & extrapolating from a movie that I don't remember very well - for argument's sake - you could say that some theoretical ineffective future society wouldn't have the same socioeconomic mobility we have today.

And also if I was a researcher, anecdotal evidence wouldn't be indicative of a trend. But you make a really good point! There's a really interesting dovetail w/ Freedom somewhere in here, but it's 8min til the end of the day, so....

H.E. Ladypants

@bananab0at Just chiming in to say that yes, I saw idiocracy as well and that I when I was watching the movie I also found the conflation of poverty and accidental pregnancy with stupidity to be quite distressing. (Remember how they flash IQ numbers in front of the interview subjects?)

But I'm also late to the party and melis said what I wanted to say, so all is cool! Sorry if I was a snark, it just felt like a weird thing to invoke in response to an article about how some women in our country are living in 1st world conditions while others are living in conditions closer to the 3rd. So I snapped. I'm sorry!

fondue with cheddar

@H.E. Ladypants I can't speak for the movie because I haven't seen it in awhile and don't remember the subtleties, but in real life, it's not that poor people are dumb or dumb people are poor. The sad truth is that poor kids are more likely to be undernourished and receive less attention from their busy parent(s), and both of these things have a detrimental effect on a child's intellectual development.

Lily Rowan

What happened to the trend of rich people having lots of babies to demonstrate their wealth?? I read it in the Times, so it must be true?

alice b. tchotchke

@Lily Rowan The NYT Style Section? Not actually a realistic portrait of America?

Lily Rowan

@alice b. tchotchke WHAT?!?!?!?!??!

Edith Zimmerman

@Lily Rowan WHHHHAAAATTTTT?!?!?!?!?

alice b. tchotchke

@Lily Rowan HAHAHAHAHA...just kidding guys!! I sleep on a bed of freshly harvested organic lavender and do yoga with the spirits of my yet-unborn children just like the rest of America! I swear!

Lily Rowan

@alice b. tchotchke Just as I thought....

melis

@alice b. tchotchke But WHERE DO YOU SEND THEM TO SUMMER CAMP

alice b. tchotchke

@melis well, I'm only 24 so it'll be about 30 years until I'm ready to impregnate my surrogate.

melis

@alice b. tchotchke So you've practically already missed the cutoff admission date. "What does your hypothetical fetus enjoy doing? Any particular hobbies or languages in which zshiexxqe displays interest? What do you think xlyxlyxlxy would do with these blocks, were zssuuuelt present and physically capable of manipulating blocks with squiey hands?"

alice b. tchotchke

@melis God,I'm so irresponsible sometimes! Guess that's why everyone waits until they're 55 to have kids.

alice b. tchotchke

@melis At least I've already got the Boeing!

sox
sox

So is an unplanned birth like one of those ladies who has some stomach cramps and then has a baby in a toilet stall at work?

/sorry.

L M
L M

related: ew. (hated it when demi moore did it, hate it now.)

Bittersweet

@Lucia Martinez: Hope those parents live long enough to see their kids graduate...

L M
L M

@Bittersweet the part where the child realizes how old the parents are in relation to everyone else and starts checking on them at night to see if they're still breathing = :(

Nutmeg

@Lucia Martinez That article always makes me angry because, really, they had more kids because the dude thought he screwed up raising his first kid? What, so he thought he should just wipe his hands clean and start fresh?

L M
L M

@Nutmeg I KNOW. what about that other kid--was he your rough draft? wtf

kapitalk

@Lucia Martinez Men over age 50 have been having kids since forever. Does it only bother you when the women are also over 50?

L M
L M

@kapitalk no, my ageist grossouts are equal opportunity.

M'fly

@Bittersweet Totally. My boss, who's a not-so-healthy guy in his mid-60s, already has 3 adult kids and 3 grandkids from his first marriage. He recently remarried and his 40-something wife is pregnant. I feel uncomfortable judging someone else's reproductive choices, but at the same time I find it hard to be supportive of my boss pretty much guaranteeing that his kid will lose one of his parents before he graduates high school. Not that I would say that to his face, obvy.

I mean, anyone could die any time, but if you are already getting up there in years and especially if you're less than perfectly healthy, your chances of dying early in your child's life increase all the time.

Bittersweet

@kapitalk: It bothers me when the women over 50 go through procedures to reverse menopause so they can carry babies to term. That's not subverting the patriarchy, that's screwing around with nature. Not sure it's a good idea.

melis

@Bittersweet It's definitely going to end with super-smart sharks, somehow.

L M
L M

@melis super-smart land-dwelling sharks.

fondue with cheddar

@Lucia Martinez Hopefully by then we'll have air squid to keep them in check.

E
E

Maybe all those ancient rich ladies who thought moisturizer use ensures fertility could buy the poor babies and raise them up? As servants, or heirs. Either way.

Maria

@E I literally just spit coffee. And I am not using literally figuratively here. Thank you.

SuperGogo

@E Aaaannd we've taken the not-so-giant leap from Idiocracy to The Handmaid's Tale.

E
E

@SuperGogo <3 u distopia.

dracula's ghost

yeah wait, I'm supposed to have babies--even though I'm currently choosing not to have babies because of overpopulation being A Fucking Real Deal--because if I don't, the poor people will overtake America?

Seems crazy narcissistic and weird to me. "I'm doing my duty by giving America another rich white baby, you're welcome America"

jesus

Lady Pennyface

@dracula's ghost Thank you. This article bugged me and couldn't quite put it into words, but your words: your words are what I was trying to articulate.

It's like a Birth-Off between the Richies and the Poors. Save us, rich white people!

fondue with cheddar

@dracula's ghost On the surface, that's the way it sounds. But think about it: this will only reinforce the class divide. While people can break free and rise from the socioeconomic class in which they are born, it's hard to do so. And I think it's only getting more difficult.

February Revolution

So... on the other hand, even countries with significantly more child-friendly social policies (I'm looking at you, northern Europe!) -still- have low birthrates. Part of the issue may be that (and I say this literally as a hypothesis because this is a question I'm researching) women very often simply want smaller families--as we develop higher expectations for quality of life, leisure time, education and so on, the lives we hope for may not be compatible with large numbers of children. If most women feel that 1-2 kids is a good-sized family, that's probably going to mean below-replacement fertility unless some other factor makes them have larger families than they want.

In sum, I'm absolutely behind making the world a more welcoming and supportive place so that women can choose to have kids when and how and if they want them, regardless of income, employment status, geography, race, etc. But that won't necessarily guarantee a perfect replacement fertility for rich and poor alike, which is just about always the implied end goal in articles like these.

wharrgarbl

@February Revolution I don't know that having lower-than-replacement fertility rates is necessarily the worst thing in the world, though. We've got a top-heavy population right now, age-wise, but that's the blip caused by vaccines and sanitation saving a bunch of babies before the pill came along to let us not have so many now that they'd live. It sucks for the time being, but things are getting steadily less labor-intensive, so in the long run having fewer people kicking around might turn out to be kind of a good thing. We don't really know what "normal" is going to look like now that we have both a reasonable expectation of a baby that survives birth both living to and being able to work at age 60 as well as the ability to not have more babies than we can support.

kayjay

I had a super-long response for this article, but it's unnecessary with this group. This trend is deeply troubling, regardless of how many babies the affluent are having. This is going to have massive repercussions from this throughout every facet of our society. And soon.

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