Religion & Liberty Online

Underpopulation and the Value of Children

Children-of-VietnamFor the past hundred years, a common worry about population was that we’d soon have more people than the Earth could sustain. Today, we have the opposite concern: In the near future, there may not be enough people to support an increasingly aging population.

To simply maintain its current population, a country needs the average number of children born to women in their country (over her lifetime) to be 2.1. Few industrialized countries come close to that replacement rate: Ireland (2.0), Australia (1.8), Canada (1.6), Japan (1.56), China (1.54), Spain (1.5), Germany (1.4), Poland (1.3), South Korea (1.2), etc.

To solve the problem of decreasing populations, says Eric Teetsel and Andrew T. Walker, our cultures must rediscover the importance of children.

In a culture of consumption, it is easy to analyze the value of children in purely economic terms. And while the economic case for children is solid on the macro level, it is less so for a man and a woman sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by bills, looking at the costs of college and the cars in their neighbors’ driveways. The decision to have children is an act of faith. It will come with costs and sacrifice, especially fiscally and emotionally. But God’s mandate to “fill the earth” starts with those willing to believe that, just as the Lord is faithful to those who develop innovations to feed millions, he is faithful to families trying to feed their children. Not only does he provide all that we need, he shows us that not all that is good can be measured in dollars and cents.

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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).