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

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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 –…

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Richard Beard

Dec. 22, 2012, 3:09 p.m.

US population is still increasing by over 1 per cent per year and world population is projected at an extra 2.2 billion by 2050.  Because of this and increasing worldwide living standards we will have to increase agricultural productivity by a factor of 3 by then plus degrade the world even more to provide the other “essential” resources.  Under this scenario it is difficult to see a reduction in the planet’s most prolific consumers as a problem.

Phil Chubb

Dec. 22, 2012, 1:13 p.m.

As the article, demonstrates, formal marriage is increasingly obsolete and good riddance.  A consequent stable or declining US population is probably bad for the almighty economy but good for the planet. Policy nabobs should now focus not on how to grow - but how to shrink - the over-consumptive population and economy that’s laying waste to the environment.


Dec. 22, 2012, 11:46 a.m.

thank you for intristing article (information statistce) really i am not so informated.
i will do a simple comment by logic ..not statistic
THE world popularitation ..is come because the highe standart life is the world right now couple IF is marry doesnt do more of 2 child and the life bwt the age 50-60- when was 1950-60 now is 80—up so we have decpropotion ..bwt young and old age people
NOW family be come les ..why? we have people with ghie education with diffrent intreses in carerre..TOO women’s be come independented ..and this is big problem for the family
i don’t think the religion play important role but this is one other reason too
AND the big problem is technology who change life’s and make the relationship cold ..
i like famile and to have lot children (how before grand mothers -fathers hading 6-9 children and without luxery ...so we be come more selfish in this theme
i am agree btw one couple needed tolerance not ME and YOU BUT ARE ,,OR WE so TO HAVE SUCCESSE and important when have children is good to keep tolerance ..some time is difficult ..this i know from my experianc in my life but family is beautifull with good and bad thing’s
i don’t think just USA will be come single country the rave of world go in this way ....les children les family..life be come more easy if WE thinking SIMPLE ..


Dec. 22, 2012, 9:09 a.m.

I am reading a book by Emile Zola called GERMINAL, a novel about French coal miners in the late 1800’s. One of the points made repeatedly in the story is the economic value of children to the family unit. Depending on age, children in the lower income families were economically unfavorable before working age, and then essential after attaining working age. In fact, the economic viability of the family was dependent on the working age children, as was the economic viability of the parents when the parents could no longer work (supposedly the rationale for our current social security system).

Is economics a more important determinant for the birthrate than is marriage? It would be interesting to see if the number of children for the lower 10% of the income distribution exceeds that for the upper 10%, particularly if the study could cover several centuries.


Dec. 22, 2012, 6:26 a.m.

Our society was developed on the concept that we need to grow children as a way to keep our well being during our old age. The children learn to keep either the farm, the store, or the small industry running and you could stop working every day as you get older. Nowadays the concept changed in a way that you have to develop a pension plan and accumulate capital as a way to survive during your old age. The children then are a burden as they grow and during the adulthood are free to follow the same path of developing their own pension plan. It’s easy to see that children don’t make economic sense nowadays. The interesting thing is that the old social contract was safer to survive monetary crises…

enrique mir

Dec. 22, 2012, 5 a.m.

Would be interesting to know the percentage of mature and inmature citizens, because maturity is needed for a durable marriage, I bet the percentage of inmature people has grown at the same time that birthrates have declined.
An inmature population is easy prey to statism and welfare…...

Nick Jacobs

Dec. 22, 2012, 12:36 a.m.

“How do we turn the trend around?” asks Halbert.

Why would we want to? A lot of the world’s problems flow from the fact that there are just too many people. If fewer women have babies, and those that do have smaller families, that’s great news!

As for the economic problems that might result from a declining population, they will be solved by human ingenuity. We already see signs that a smaller number of working people can support a larger number of inactive (retired) people. That’s what the high unemployment figures are telling us.

jack goldman

Dec. 21, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

One side effect of debasing the currency is prices are up 1,000% and wages are only up 500%. Why have children when parents bear all the costs except public school? Now people can choose and only idiots or people in love have children. If in love, marriage and kids are bearable. If not in love, cheating, out of love, marriage and children are impossible. Only one marriage I know is a happy marriage and they are both retired government employees, public school teachers, living in a bubble. The real world grinds marriages and families into dust. Families can not survive the caustic brew of currency debasement, public school, mass media, and all the negative aspects of this mechanical spiritual wasteland. I have two kids. Don’t waste your time having kids. Most kids hate their parents and not that many parents really love their kids. It’s a fact. Why not just have fun, avoid children, and have a great fun life self pleasuring?

jack goldman

Dec. 21, 2012, 8:47 p.m.

Anyone who gets married, buys a house, and has babies is an economic idiot, paying to subsidize the government with new tax payers. College alone is $160,000, or $80,000 if subsidized at a public school. Smart people do not get married, have babies, and pay for them. It’s a horrific financial deal with the devil. People who have babies are just raising future taxpayers at their own expense who will be fleeced by the government for profits. Families will become a thing of the past because of cost, the expenses are too high and rewards are too low. Only poor people will afford babies because their babies are subsidized.

David Oldham

Dec. 21, 2012, 7:39 p.m.

“The US birth rate has always declined during periods of recession. But the birth rate has always climbed to new highs after recessions – except this time. The US birth rate has continued to decline to a record low since the recession of 2007-2009. This is alarming”.

Yes well, I think we can regard this as a leading indicator. All things considered—the US is still in recession and likely to remain so for the forseeable future. Perhaps the author lives in cloud cookoo land ?

I guess there are positives which will come to light in due course. Less bankers and financial whiz kids will be born springs to mind. But more seriously, life expectancy will increase exponentially so these current working age youngsters will work into their 80’s 90’s in a world becoming ever more automated and jobless. That is assuming world population growth can be sustained with ever increasing pressures upon food production, failing which the problem under discussion is no longer a problem.

Have a Very Merry Christmas everyone.

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