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Time Magazine, 'The Childfree Life,' and Me

9:29 AM, Aug 9, 2013 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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It is a hard truth that living child-free in a place like Lincoln Park or Old Town Alexandria can be a glorious, wonder-filled existence. Having children is often a one-way ticket out of Eden into some soulless suburb lined with big-box stores, chain restaurants, and strip malls. It is nearly impossible to have both. And so, as Nikolai Botev of the United Nations Population Fund put it to the New York Times, in the modern pleasure carnival, “childlessness emerges as an ideal lifestyle.”

If Sandler takes that as scolding, then I guess it’s fair enough—who am I to invalidate a reader’s feelings? But you have to be an awfully sensitive soul to come away from What to Expect feeling judged.

As for blaming the childfree for America’s economic problems, this is simply false. I don’t say that at all, anywhere. What’s more, the case I present is that the data on “ideal fertility” suggests that our problem is not the rise of a childfree class that doesn’t want children.

Yes, there is a very small minority in America which prefers no kids. But most people in America want kids. About 2.5, on average. And we’ve wanted 2.5 kids, pretty consistently, for the last 40 years.

Our problem, from an economic point of view, is the yawning chasm between our fertility aspirations and the families we actually achieve. (The average American wants 2.5 kids, but winds up with 1.9 kids.) What’s the cause of this disconnect? A whole constellation of factors, including skyrocketing college costs, the rise of divorce and cohabitation, the breakdown of marriage, and stagnant middle-class wages, just to start. Figuring out what it is about the economy and the culture which keeps people from having the children they want is one of the major thrusts of What to Expect.

It’s nice to have What to Expect mentioned in Time. It would have been even better if someone associated with the magazine had actually read the book.

Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard and the author of What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster (Encounter).

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