If you want population growth, support alternative families

People who promote “traditional” marriage, and oppose official support for or recognition of other family forms, are often the same people who worry about the relatively low fertility rates in the US and other wealthy nations.

The blog Demography Matters quotes from a newspaper article, about attitudes towards motherhood in Germany — attitudes that too many cultural conservatives in the United States share.

Unbeknownst to most outsiders, Germany is the most difficult place in Western Europe to be a working mother, with a deeply ingrained culture of machismo that expects women to give up their lives once they have children.

The ideology itself was Ms. Hoffritz’s biggest barrier. When she talked about her frustrations, her friends and relatives openly denounced her as a rabenmutter – literally “raven mother,” a woman who abandons her children, like the mythic ravens throwing their chicks from the nest. It is a term routinely applied to working mothers in Germany.

“When I got pregnant, even though I’d had a career for 20 years, everyone expected me to drop my job forever, to take care of my son and not do anything else all day for the rest of my life, and they got angry when I said otherwise,” she says. “Friends just thought I should be a full-time mom.”

This attitude, unsurprisingly, discourages women from having children. A new study by Jean-Marie Le Goff compares higher-fertility France with lower-fertility Germany:

Women in France, Le Goff argues, have access to a whole variety of family structures, from the traditional nuclear marriage family to a family marked by cohabitation to single motherhood, with a relatively long tradition of recognizing the responsibilities of parents towards their children regardless of their legal status, with the idea of mothers working outside of the home not only being accepted but supported by any number subsidies to parents to affordable and accessible day care. In West Germany, social and policy norms tend to support traditional family structures. The result? In France, people are childbearing age are split between two sectors, one defined by marriage relationships and the other defined by cohabitation relationships. On the other side of the Rhine, people of childbearing age are split between people who have children and people who don’t. Katja Köppen’s Second Births in Western Germany and France (Demographic Research 14.14) further points out that whereas Frenchwomen seem to enjoy an institutional structure that encourages motherhood and there isn’t a contradiction between high levels of education–hence employment–and fertility, there is such a contradiction in western Germany, with government spending priorities in the latter country being directed towards the support of traditional families. It’s not too much of a surprise, then, that the German Federal Statistics Office reports that [the number] of childless women is rising, particularly in the former West Germany.

Personally, I don’t care if fertility in the US goes down or up; I suspect any deficit in our population caused by declining births can be made up for by increased immigration. But those who are concerned about fertility rates, should consider supporting, rather than denigrating, alternative family forms.

(Curtsy to Economic Woman.)

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4 Responses to If you want population growth, support alternative families

  1. 1
    Brian says:

    Never expect consistency or logic from people who have shown themselves incapable of either. They want the world to be the way they want it, and damn facts, reason, physical laws or human nature.

    Personally I want fertility rates to plummet. As long as the population continues to double every 35 years, anything else that happens is irrelevant.

    That’s the main reason I’m losing patience with “me first” Balkanization on the one side of most debates, and creeping mono-culture Fascism on the other side. Both sides will be living in a SOYLENT GREEN nightmare in a generation or two.

    So let the “free Mumia” dipwads and “Sarah Palin/Michelle Bachman in 2012″ types hammer it out over what they think a “family” consists of. Just live your own life, take care of your loved ones and when the time comes, learn how to cook your neighbors.


    And yes, I know that’s two different Charlton Heston movies, but it works




  2. 2
    nojojojo says:


    “free Mumia” dipwads

    …Do you actually know anything about that case, or its supporters, or are you just trying to be funny here?


    Personally, I don’t care if fertility in the US goes down or up; I suspect any deficit in our population caused by declining births can be made up for by increased immigration.

    I’m surprised at you. You know full well the conservatives ranting about low Western-nation fertility rates aren’t actually upset about the population declining. They’re upset about the population browning, such that their support for traditional family dynamics doesn’t extend to demographic groups that actually tend to be traditionally-shaped, like Latina/o Americans and immigrants from non-Western nations.

    I agree with your premise that the people who want population growth should support alternative families, but also non-white traditional families. Because it’s pretty obvious what they’re really interested in.

  3. 3
    Brian says:

    nojojojo, you raise a good point that it’s mostly racism that motivates the political far right in the USA to bemoan “declining birth rates.” It’s becoming as much a standard part of their code language as “state’s rights” has been.

    I am almost nostalgic for the days of George Lincoln Rockwell and Lester Maddox. Yes, they were bigoted, xenophobic, and pretty much insane. But at least they didn’t try and pretend that they weren’t. Now with the habitual weakening of meaning we allow and accept, what Rockwell and Maddox shouted from the fringes in the 1960s is said almost politely in “respectable” places.

    And yes, I read a lot on the murder of Daniel Faulkner back in 2002, read the whole court transcript and much of the other facts about the case. (not opinions, law is about fact.) I’m too rusty to debate it now, but I did make an informed decision on the subject.

    I have to agree with the original jury, and the court system.

    Much like the loonies on the far right will march lock step in defense of the war criminals of the Bush years with no interest in anything but how those people make them FEEL, others have adopted Mumia as a symbol based purely on appeal to emotion. I feel using him as a counterweight to the unquestioning acceptance of similar right wing icons makes a good rhetorical point.

    I take reason and debate seriously. I have little patience for pure emotional argument, or for the “key word search” approach of looking for one word or phrase to anchor an indignant response to. The first is just a poor basis for an argument, the other is just lazy and shows a person is not really engaged in a dialog, they are just waiting for their turn to speak.

    It’s a very Glenn Beck approach, and progressives should try and do better.


  4. 4
    Aoede says:

    In the long long term, a period of low birthrates would be rather helpful. Just sayin’.