My weekly reading isn't limited to the London based newspaper...but by far it's my favorite. I get a little bonus listening to the podcast by making fun of the Brits pronouncing Americker or Chiner. What a hoot! Two countries separated by a common language...I believe the saying goes.
Because of my job, I get to talk to a Brit almost weekly. Sometimes I have to call and repeat an instruction or direction I've already conveyed a number of times before to her, and needless to say, I'm a bit aggravated when the call is initiated. But as soon as she answers the phone with an accented How are you t'day Anthony. Good to hear from you...my aggravation seems to just melt away. She never calls me Tony, always Anthony, and she has a way of sprinkling the word brilliant enough in a conversation that I always hang up feeling a little better about myself. But I digress...
A recent cover article in The Economist focused on world population. The article surmises that world population will begin to decline soon due to the fact couples aren't having as many kids these days. The theory goes that in order to just maintain population levels, parents must produce 2.1 children in their lifetime.
Stay with me...this gets better...well at least deeper.
The magical number of 2.1 is derived from a number of variables including one that accounts for some females dying before child bearing years. Not a very pleasant thought, but number crunchers rarely are emotional about their theories and supporting variables.
Apparently this high school Science Fair participant didn't get the memo.
So the wheels start turning, and I immediately start calculating how my life fits this hypothesis. I apologize to a number of parties in advance.
I have two daughters. One from a previous marriage and one with my wife and soul mate (Don't even think I'm using the term current wife. She occasionally reads my stuff). My first daughter's mother doesn't have any other children, so within the parameters of this theorem, I'm already a negative contributor to maintaining the world's population. Two children from three parents...that math is not very difficult.
So, I backed up to a more macro view. My parents had two children. My sister and her husband do not have kids. So now we have a factor of five adults with only two kids. The outlook for civilization is growing more gloomy as I proceed. Let's take an even broader look at my particular genealogy.
My dad's parents had five kids. Those five kids married and produced nine grandchildren. My mom's parents had thirteen...yes 13...children who produced twenty-two grandchildren. So from four adults, we have thirty-one offspring (of course, I humbling admit to being the favorite...sorry cousins). Let's go another level. Those thirty-one grandchild have produced, to date, thirty-four great, grandchildren. It gets a little fuzzy here and at the previous level because there are a number of splits and mixed families, but I'm just counting the actually bodies in the bloodline at this point. So from four...we have thirty-four to date.
What does all this mean? Why is human fertility important enough to be the cover story material from my favorite publication? What does any of this have to do with economics outside of the obvious (which you understand if you're a parent)?
I have personally come to three separate conclusions: First, the Brit who wrote this article was far too selective in the countries he chose for data collection that lead to his 'world population in decline' hypothesis and maybe a little presumptuous. Second, I'm not doing my part personally to ensure I will collect Social Security after I've paid into the system my entire working life. Third, picking a favorite magazine based on accents is a really dumb thing to do, so my new favorite is Southern Living.
Maybe that second conclusion is off on a tangent and a bit too micro...