Americans Are Now Using Too Much Birth Control

The reason libertarians are against social engineering is because it’s very hard to get it right. We start out trying to fix a problem, so we devise a good solution, which often times turns out to be too good: it fixes the problem so much that it breaks something else. One example we recently looked at was food: government tried to eliminate hunger, so it made food cheap — so cheap, that now half the country is obese and dying of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, instead of hunger.

The Washington Post is now highlighting population control as another good intention gone bad. For years, the educational message has been that babies were bad news. You should be using birth control, and if you’re not, you’re throwing your life away and any chance at material happiness. Since education works quite well at changing behavior, in 2011, the birth rate hit an all-time record low.


At first blush, this might look like good news because of overpopulation. And it is a good thing for us to not reach China or India’s population levels. But, the birthrate is now too low to even sustain the population. In order to maintain the same number of people, the average woman should have 2.1 children in her lifetime, but today’s average is 1.9. Of course, a shrinking population does have its benefits too, since the world is probably already overpopulated. But it presents a big problem to the elderly: less children means less tax-paying adults in the future, which means less retirement benefits for more retirees. And so, in an interesting turn of events, birth control education is now threatening socialized geriatric care.



A few more interesting facts:

  • The birthrate in America has long been propped up by Hispanic immigrants, who tended to have a lot of children.
  • Bad economies lead to lower birthrates, and since the Great Recession of 2008, the American-born birthrate dropped 6%, the immigrant one dropped 14% and the Mexican immigrant birthrate dropped 23%.
  • The peak birthrate happened during the baby boom and was twice as much as it is now — in 1957, there were 122 births per 1,000 women.
  • Immigrant women constitute 17% of the female population, but account for 23% of births. Their birthrate is 1.5x that of U.S.-born women.
  • Since over 40% of births come from unwed mothers — indicating that a large share of them are accidental pregnancies — the birthrate will drop even more as contraceptives use increases.
  • Due to the lower birthrate of non-Hispanics, California and Texas are now almost 40% Hispanic and New Mexico, 46%. (Note that majority of people in those states are still white, since the term “Hispanic” refers to heritage, not race: you can be white Hispanic, black Hispanic, etc.)

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