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Europe's future youth sports problem: no youth

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Fred Pearce of the Guardian newspaper in London is noting that in Europe, they ain’t makin’ babies like they used to. It’s the subject of his book, “Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations and the Coming Population Crash.” The upside for American children today is fewer future Dirk Nowitzkis to compete against for a spot on an NBA roster.

Thirty years ago, 23 European countries had fertility above replacement levels; now none does, with only France, Iceland, Albania, Britain and Ireland anywhere near. And last year’s economic downturn threatens to ­depress fertility further. “There is a good bit of ­evidence that hard ­economic times cause people to ­delay having babies or not have one altogether,” says Carl Haub, from the ­Population Reference Bureau in the US.

In Germany, where fertility has been low for more than a generation, demographers report a large decline in the desired family size. “Today, 48% of German men under 40 agree that you can have a happy life without children. When their fathers were asked the same question at the same age, only 15% agreed,” says Europe’s top demographer, Wolfgang Lutz of the Vienna ­Institute of Demography. Thirty per cent of German women today say they don’t intend to have children at all.

Once a country has very low fertility for a generation, it begins to run out of young women able to gestate future generations. Germany is there already: it has only half as many children under 10 as adults in their 40s. Demographer Peter McDonald calculates that if Italy gets stuck with recent fertility levels, and fails to top up with foreign migrants, it will lose 86% of its population by the end of the century, falling to 8 million compared with today’s 56 million. Spain will lose 85%, Germany 83% and Greece 74%.

Jesse Ausubel, a futurologist at Rockefeller University in New York, fears “the twilight of the west” as Europe’s population thins and ages. “Civilisations have simply melted away because of poor reproductive rates of the dominant class . . . The question may now be whether, underneath the personal decision to procreate, lies a subliminal social mood influencing the process. The subliminal mood of ­Europe could now be for a blackout ­after 1,000 years on stage.”

Of course, Pearce also notes that the world population is still rising rapidly, fueled by high birth rates in less developed nations. Presumably, some of those kids will make it to Europe, causing all sorts of culture clashes as the old, white order struggles to keep what they see as theirs as the new, not-so-white order moves in. I think we’re somewhat familiar with that concept in America. Hey, as long as the travel team check clears, it’s all good, isn’t it?

By the way, the United States birth rate is about replacement level (2,100 births per 1,000 women). I have four kids, so I think I can say my wife and I have more than done our part to ensure the continuation of the youth sports hegemony.

(Hat tap to The Urbanophile, a great site for city planning and demography dorks such as myself. Or even if you’re not a dork.)

Written by rkcookjr

February 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm