Outside the Box

US Birth Rate Hits New Low – A Nation of Singles

December 21, 2012

Today’s OTB is not directly about the economy or investment, but rather about a key demographic shift that will certainly have a major effect on both. I have a somewhat different take on the shift than our author, my very-long-time friend Gary D. Halbert (founder of ProFutures and former business partner from the ’90s); and I will be writing about this next year. There is a significant transformation going on in my thinking about how the political world in the US (and, I suspect, much of Europe as well) impacts the economy.

The real eye-opener here is Gary’s reporting of the role of singles, rather than what is happening with the birth rate and fertility rate, although those are important too. As a surging percentage of US voters, singles are a game changer. They see the world differently in terms of their own personal security and the future – or at least that is how they vote.

To get a sense of how powerful the marriage effect is, not just for women but for men, too, look at the exit polls by marital status. Among non-married voters – people who are single and have never married, are living with a partner, or are divorced – Obama beat Romney 62-35. Among married voters Romney won the vote handily, 56-42.

OK, we all kind of knew that singles as a group favored Obama. But by that much? Singles are a new and rapidly rising part of the population that has not been well accounted for demographically, and that is the real import of what Gary shows us. I can tell you how many women will be eligible to vote in 2030, for instance, but there is nothing in the birth rate to predict the number of singles we’ll have. That is shifting, and in terms of voting patterns that shift (at least so far) is large.

This piece gives us quite a bit to think about as we contemplate how our entitlement programs and taxes will eventually settle out. The trends Gary describes are part and parcel of our national dysfunctionality. We want maximal healthcare and minimal taxes – at least on 98% of us. Healthcare benefits have to be paid for by someone; and that trade-off is going to be large in terms not just of taxes but also how capital formation, productivity, and employment are affected. It is hard to overstate the implications of how healthcare demographics will affect the economy.

As I write this note, the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and planning are going on all around me. My family will celebrate Christmas together on the 26th, so I can have all my seven kids and their families in one place under my roof.

I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year. I will be writing a short note for Thoughts from the Frontline this weekend, and then start to think about roasting a prime, rather than prime rates, for a few days.

Your almost ready for Christmas analyst,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

Get John Mauldin's Over My Shoulder

"Must See" Research Directly from John Mauldin to You

Be the best-informed person in the room
with your very own risk-free trial of Over My Shoulder.
Join John Mauldin's private readers’ circle, today.


by Gary D. Halbert

December 18, 2012

US Birth Rate Hits New Low – A Nation of Singles


1.  US Birth Rate Falls to Record Low in 2011

2.  Birth Rate Needed to Maintain Current Population

3.  A Nation of Singles – Implications For the Future

4.  How Did We Become a Nation of Singles?

5.  Conclusions –…

Get Varying Expert Opinions in One Publication with John Mauldin’s Outside the Box
Every week, celebrated economic commentator John Mauldin highlights a well-researched, controversial essay from a fellow economic expert. Whether you find them inspiring, upsetting, or outrageous... they’ll all make you think Outside the Box. Get the newsletter free in your inbox every Wednesday.

Discuss This


We welcome your comments. Please comply with our Community Rules.


Page 1 of 3  1 2 3 > 

Ronald Nimmo

Dec. 30, 2012, 4:46 p.m.

To Adam Kizner: Excessive tolerance is as much of a problem as narrow-mindedness. Just because tolerance, in and of itself, is a virtue, it does not necessarily follow that it is a virtue in unlimited degree or amount.

Ronald Nimmo

Dec. 30, 2012, 4:30 p.m.

Some countries do need to reduce their birth rates. Most Moslem countries fall into this category, as well as many African countries (Moslem or otherwise). But the advanced and Western countries do not need to do so because they are not even reproducing enough to replace themselves.

David Fischer 37051

Dec. 27, 2012, 5:23 p.m.

Marriage and fertility are inversely proportional to women’s rights.

Mark Respinger

Dec. 25, 2012, 11:04 p.m.

Instesting that Gary is talking about a boom in the birth rate after a recession. I’m almost certain a more accurate test for this would be to look at the birth rate in correlation with the employment rate or average wage, both of which would probably show much less sensational changes.

Also, with regard to the voting stats, we can see that younger people are much more likely to be unmarried. Thus saying that unmarried people are more likely to vote Democrat, is highly distorted by the stat that young people are more likely to vote Democrat. To be useful, the unmarried stats really need to be broken down by age categories, or other categories that typically divide people along party lines.

david edwards 31158

Dec. 25, 2012, 2:34 a.m.

I work as a corporate rep in BB and Wallmart on the weekends.  Up untill this year I really saw any pregnant women, five six a year.  This year year what ever store I go to during my 4hr shift, I now see 2 pregnant women on the average.  The record was six pregnant woman in a Wallmart.  I live in MD near DC I don’t know if this is DC metro area phenom or not.  I would like to know if other people have seen this.

Brett Spurr

Dec. 24, 2012, 3:34 p.m.

I find the data about trends useful and thought provoking, but the author’s conclusions insipid and bound by ideology. The author states “marriage is what made the West and America in particular.” Really? Where is the logic to it? Wasn’t some form of marriage responsible for EVERY culture, everywhere? So how did it do anything special for the US? And for a conservative minded author (who else quotes The Weekly Standard?), who is supposed to believe in limited government, how can he say “we need to re-instill the importance of marriage” over the “Tolerance of the decay of marriage, acceptance of divorce and cohabitation and EVEN GAY MARRIAGE”? The cognitive dissonance of people who claim to value freedom is truly astounding. With such poor reasoning demonstrated, I wouldn’t put too much stock in his conclusions. He clearly cannot imagine any future that doesn’t look and feel like the 1950’s.


Dec. 23, 2012, 5:25 a.m.

I heard a report about political leanings of men and women.  Men tend to be more conservative and more stable in their leanings.  The women will get more conservative when they get married and more so when they have children—but dramatically more liberal with divorce.  The security of marriage needs to be replaced with something else—government.
If you look at the top 10% of high school graduates, they will be overwhelmingly from still married, two parent families.  The drop outs and prisons are overwhelingly populated by the products of single mothers.  Marriage is the glue that has held society together.

Giovanni Isaksen

Dec. 22, 2012, 7:13 p.m.

As others have pointed out the ‘recession is over’ meme is a very 1% view. 30% of all mortgage holders are underwater and if one is unemployed or even concerned about job security the depression is still on. Let’s remember too what caused the problem in the first place: Bankers gone wild. So it is quite easy for people still suffering to see that lack of government is what lead to the financial meltdown. When bankers stop pillaging the economy for their own personal profits and the average Main St. American feels confident about their economic prospects birth rates will recover. Maybe not to baby boom levels but that wasn’t sustainable even then.

If the issue is how to get more taxpayers one good start would be to staple a green card to every international student’s diploma when they graduate from a school in the US. A rational immigration policy could be a big part of the solution to the demographics.

Pining for the ‘good old days’ when the culture suited the author better doesn’t help much given the reality on the ground.


Dec. 22, 2012, 4:45 p.m.

Young people I know have been hit hard with doubling of their student loan costs, zero job security, and very limited access to health care, which is pretty substantial for a pregnancy. Why is this trend such a surprize?

They still want children as far as I can discern talking to them. The ones with kids are struggling. This seems to be a fairly sensible generation. They do the math.

Kathy Tompkins

Dec. 22, 2012, 4:38 p.m.

This article is just another resurrection of the: “you have to be religious to be moral” doctrine, and a not so thinly veiled argument for the “Defense of Marriage Act”. Wish I hadn’t wasted my time.

What a kook this man is. He must be the odds on favorite to win the Micheal Bachman/Ted Nugent bigot of the year award.

I’m surprised John posted it.

Page 1 of 3  1 2 3 >