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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This piece by David Brooks is quite interesting. In it it traces the rise of large families in the US, and the relationship between this phenomenon he calls “natalism” and wider social, cultural and even political forces. It’s certainly worth a read.
Here’s what got me thinking::

The fastest-growing regions of the country tend to have the highest concentrations of children. Young families move away from what they perceive as disorder, vulgarity and danger and move to places like Douglas County in Colorado (which is the fastest-growing county in the country and has one of the highest concentrations of kids).
Some people see these exurbs as sprawling, materialistic wastelands, but many natalists see them as clean, orderly and affordable places where they can nurture children. If you wanted a one-sentence explanation for the explosive growth of far-flung suburbs, it would be that when people get money, one of the first things they do is use it to try to protect their children from bad influences.

I think there may indeed be something to this. But perhaps it also works the other way round. If you live in a place or a society full of bad influences and the like, that is surely going to lower your desire to put children into that world. To give a slightly charicatured view, if Melanie Phillips’ observations of modern Britain are ten per cent accurate, who in his right mind would want to raise children in such a country. There is a certainly a wide-spread feeling in Britain, that something just isn’t right, even though it’s difficult to put the finger on what it is. Is that perhaps dampening the desire for offspring? I actually think that’s quite a convincing idea.

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