Ending Demographic Winter: Go Back to Church?

Chart Showing Correlation Between Church Attendance and the Birth Rate

As I’ve pointed out previously, Demographic Winter appears to be here to stay in America. The most recent “components of population change” for 2013 from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the natural change in population (births minus deaths) continues its decline:

2011 — 1,481,360

2012 — 1,425,019

2013 — 1,412,009

The decline in natural change is due to both a decrease in births and an increase in deaths. As the boomers age, there is not much we can do about the ever increasing rise in the death rate–barring some major technological breakthrough that extends our life-spans.

Theoretically, the easiest and best way to tackle a declining natural change is to boost the birth rate. Yet, the persistent decline in the birth rate suggests this may be easier said than done.

One interesting correlation that has been much discussed is the connection between religion and the birth rate. So, I put together the chart above which reinforces this notion by looking at the relationship for the 50 states (minus Alaska and Hawaii). More specifically, it looks at the relationship between weekly church attendance and the birth rate.

As you can see in the chart, Utah, not surprisingly, anchors one end with both the highest birth rate and weekly church attendance. On the other hand, the three Northern New England states (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) have the lowest birth rate and weekly church attendance.

On a personal level, I see this in my small town in New Hampshire. Inside my Catholic church are several families with four or more children (including my own of course). Yet, when I go into the local Walmart, I rarely see families with more than 2 children.

From an economic perspective, this relationship does make sense. Religion essentially extends one’s time-horizon to include multiple generations–children, grandchildren, etc. However, from a secular viewpoint, children are a burden that detracts from “living life to the fullest”–after all, your short time on Earth is all you have. Therefore, children are more likely to be valued in a religious household and less valued in a secular household.

Assuming this correlation is real and not a proxy for something else, what has to happen to get Americans back into a pew? My guess is that it would take a major Christian revival that have often occurred from time-to-time in America’s past. Some thought the 9/11 terrorist attacks would spark the next revival, but it did not.

I don’t claim to know what will start the next Christian revival. All I can do is raise my own children in the Catholic Christian faith and hope that maybe one of them will help find the answer. They will need to since we apparently live at ground zero for Demographic Winter.

An Economic Defense of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium


Thank you to Crisis Magazine for publishing my article “Some Economic Applications of Evangelii Gaudium.”

Many free market, libertarian leaning economists have criticized the Pope’s understanding of the economy as discussed in Evangelii Gaudium.  I explain why I take issue with these economists who think that any monetary generating activity is of equal value to society. To illustrate their mistake, let’s consider my expenditure of $1,000 on an abortion or $1,000 on a life-saving procedure.  Clearly, the two activities are not of the same value as one activity ends life while the other saves life?  Yet, according to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), America’s income goes up.  Overall, I can’t help but think that Pope Francis really isn’t criticizing America’s free-market so much as he is criticizing America’s waning Christian faith and diminished moral compass.  You can read more of my economic defense of Evangelii Gaudium at the Crisis Magazine website.

Wisconsin and Free Birth Control

Not 100% Effective

I’ve been piling up some articles I wanted to blog about and here is another from a couple weeks ago from the WSJ’s August 18th issue found here about the push in Wisconsin to:

expand a program that provides free birth-control pills, vasectomies and other forms of contraception to low income people (including the morning after pill) after the federal health care overhaul cleared the way to make the program permanent….. (and another gem) is that girls and boys starting at age 15 can participate without parental consent.

First, what the heck is going on in the beloved midwest (perhaps a naive question coming from a non-Midwesterner)?  I know Milwaukee is quite liberal but surely there are enough farmers left who are traditionalists ?  Have “midwestern values” left the building ?  Is the death of the farm and thus death of large families to blame for the race to the bottom of the social value drain ?  And it’s not just Wisconsin, we’ve got Iowa, Wyoming and Oklahoma joining the posse of states that have “broadened Medicaid to give extra family planning coverage.”

What about taxpayers paying for contraception for women whose incomes are closer to middle class income than poverty ?

Wisconsin is pushing to increase the income limit so more women can qualify.  Currently, the limit is $21,600 a year for single people-twice the federal poverty level-and that would rise to $32,490 or about three times the poverty level.

The proposed increase in the income limit to $32k seems a bit high given that Wisconsin’s per capita income is $40,953.  What about money for abstinence counseling ?  Nope, sorry just money to scare off unwanted pregnancies. As representative for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Richard Doerflinger aptly said:

To provide coverage for family planning and nothing else reflects a very dismissive view of women.