Sunday, February 18, 2007


Why Women Have Fewer Babies
Corey Binns
Special to LiveScience
Sat Feb 17, 9:15 AM ET

The number of
children a woman in America has in her lifetime declined during the past two centuries, and it's not just because of the birth control pill.

Historians are closing in on the socio-economic and cultural factors in
family downsizing, a trend also found in most of Western Europe.

"There are two reasons
fertility rates can decline," said J. David Hacker, a SUNY Binghamton historian. "One explanation is that marriage declines. Not as many women get married, and if they do marry, they do so at a later age, so that there is less time to have children. The second explanation is that people consciously try to limit having children, which was revolutionary in the 19th century."

According to most census estimates, an American woman had on average seven to eight children in 1800. By 1900 the number dropped to about 3.5. That has fallen to slightly more than two today.
Birth rates fell first in New England, and then among pioneers as they headed west. Internationally, France led the way to smaller families.

Reconstructing the intricacies of census data has been difficult for dates prior to 1933, when the National Birth Registration system was put into place. With grant money from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Hacker is taking a closer look at long-term census trends thanks to a new database developed by the Minnesota Population Center.

Family budgets

Modern economics have made smaller families a good investment, historians and economists agree.

Before the 1800s, children were educated at home or in
church. Children became more expensive to care for and less helpful around the house once public schooling became available. At the same time, women were freed up from all-day children-rearing, allowing mothers to enter the paid labor force.

However, money isn't the only incentive for smaller
families, experts say.

"We know for sure that you don't have to reach a high level of per capita income for fertility to decline, but we don't know exactly what sets it off," said historian George Atler at Indiana University. "Whether it's general change or attitudes about
birth control is still a question debated among demographers today."

The dogma of most major Christian religions during the 1800s forbade abortion and divorce in the United States. And in 1873 the Comstock Act made it illegal to send any so-called obscene materials in the mail, including information about

Popular literature
Ironically, Hackler said, record sales of two
family planning books published in the 1830s suggest that the public was eager to keep families small, regardless of religious or political pressure.

"There's a flurry of publications in the mid-19th century giving readers advice on how to control family size," Hacker told LiveScience.

"Moral Physiology" by Robert Dale Owen and Charles Knowlton's "The Fruits of Philosophy" became popular for advocating contraception methods. Owen described coitus interruptus, where a man ejaculates outside of the woman's body. Knowlton's book included instructions for women on how to wash with a spermicidal solution.

Hacker's research may better inform economists and policy makers about current worldwide trends toward smaller families.

"All nations are experiencing fertility declines," said Hacker. "It's becoming a social policy issue as countries face prospects of caring for an aging population."


This article is SO open ended & answers NO question as the title implies! Good grief! Why don't I just pose & question & write an article that does NOT answer the question myself!

What kind of MATH is that, (the first boldened phrase) 3.5 children THEN "slightly more than 2"? What IS "slightly more than 2"? Isn't 3.5 slightly more than 2? What is 3.5? A dog?

Answer me is a smaller family a good 'investment' if children become MORE expensive to care for once PUBLIC SCHOOLING BEGINS? & they become LESS helpful around the house? When did 'more expensive' = 'a good investment'?

Do you see the progression here? sending them to outside school + less children= LESS help in the home = more expensive to care for them??? + mom can go OUTSIDE the home to earn MORE $$$ Uh why? to make up for the difference lost when the children were NOT home.

Do you see what I mean here?

And citing a religious ban on abortion & divorce as a 'reason' for larger families? How about the promotion of family values within the church as a reason for larger families? duh! Maybe it was the decline in family values that led to abortion and divorce in the first place? Not the other way around.

What does care for the aging population have to do w/ it? Hhhmmmmm? is someone worried about WHO will care for the aging population? I bet if the 'aging population' had 8 children to choose from, it wouldn't be an issue...I'm sure @ least one of those kids would be happy too care for grandpa.

But now, w/ only "slightly more than two" options for care, & they both are in the workforce, everyone's too busy to care for grandpa!

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