Small Families Can Benefit NM and the World | My opinion
Across America, millions of women and couples decide to have smaller families. New Mexico’s birth rate has also declined steadily over the past decade.
This should not be a cause for alarm. Amid an unprecedented climate crisis and persistent socio-economic inequalities, declining fertility represents an extraordinary opportunity. We can back down and focus on creating a bigger society – as opposed to a bigger one.
Yet alarms are being sounded that our future prosperity will somehow depend on higher birth rates. Most Americans clearly understand that this is not true for their own families. And that is not true of New Mexico, nor of our nation.
Americans have managed to adapt – and often prosper – in response to sweeping economic changes. For example, none of the five largest American companies today existed even when the American population reached 200 million in 1967. Remember when the Amazon was just a river in North America? South ? Since then, our economy has changed dramatically. Whatever demographic trends, disruptions to the status quo are a fact of modern life. A stable U.S. population, with fewer people entering the workforce, could provide employment opportunities for those trapped in poverty – which includes nearly 42,000 children under the age of 18, or 21.5% , in the metro area of Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico. When they grow up they deserve the chance to find good jobs.
Some fear that we may not be able to provide for the needs of older Americans without rapid population growth. Of course, we will need more nursing homes, but fewer nursery schools. More transportation services for seniors but fewer school buses. More gerontologists but fewer obstetricians. Yes, the ratio of workers to retirees will decrease, but the ratio of workers to young dependents will increase as family size decreases. These manageable changes will unfold over decades and generations. In fact, demographers still predict that America’s population could increase by over 100 million by 2100.
As family size shrinks, an increase in employment among working-age women, who are still the primary caregivers, can help offset the declining worker-to-retiree ratio. In addition, smaller families make it easier to invest per child in health and education, which is a boon to our future economic productivity. The jobs of tomorrow will require a highly skilled workforce.
In fact, slowing population growth should be seen as a breath of fresh air. And speaking of fresh air … while our air and water are cleaner than they were 50 years ago, most Americans still worry, and rightly so, about air pollution. air and water. And we are among the main drivers of global climate change.
While we generally think of climate change affecting distant places, we all face serious challenges. As the monsoon season eased long-standing water shortages, drought conditions will continue. The conditions led to a bark beetle infestation, further stressing the ponderosa pine and killing millions of pines. Slower population growth would decrease demand for the declining freshwater supply in New Mexico.
Coastal communities in the eastern United States are already facing “sunny day” flooding due to climate-related sea level rise. Overbuilding, triggered by rapid population growth, in increasingly flood-prone areas is a prescription for disaster.
The savings can be adjusted to reflect our changing world. We will have more old people and less young people. We will have more women entering and staying in the paid work force. And we will have more work done through automation. We can also have more green space and wildlife habitat, more investment in every American, and more hope for a planet that can comfortably support future generations. In this situation, less can be more.
JoAnn Sivley Ruppert is a resident of Tesuque and has worked with foster children and assisted with adoptions.