If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, forget em', cause, man, they're gone. –Jack Handey
Question #89387 posted on 04/19/2017 9:38 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I notices that the answers given to Board Question #89210 don't actually answer the question - Will cooler heads prevail this time?

It's clear the reader was asking about average birthrates, not a select few scenarios where a few people have infertility problems - which, unless infertility is also increasing (and if it is, none of you mentioned it), seems to be unrelated to the decrease in birthrates.

I feel it's a question worth exploring, both in the US at large as well as US LDS culture as well: why is the birthrate of LDS couples in the US decreasing? Is infertility actually increasing, as your prior answers seem to imply? Obviously more people are choosing to have fewer children in US society as a whole, but what is prompting this change? Is it really as serious as the reader who asked Board Question #89210 implies, or are the numbers they cite incorrect?

Not cool to not answer questions, dudes. Especially since 3 writers contributed, I would expect at least one of you to have a cooler head and have actually answered it.

-My Name Here

A:

Dear Mr. Cool,

I do apologize for not including information as to why the birthrate is decreasing in my answer, though I don't apologize for the content of my answer; it expressed exactly what I wanted it to, after considering for days what I wanted to say. Sometimes as a writer, there are certain aspects of a question that I feel are more important to be addressed, and I don't always write as holistic answers as I would like. In this question, I did get the sense that the person was viewing couples who don't have many children as unrighteous. To me, that attitude was at the core of the question, and so that attitude was the focus of my response. As I did not have time the week I wrote up my response to go into everything I wanted to, I included the information I felt was most important to share (it wasn't that my head was merely not "cool").

I don't think you quite understand the purpose of the Board. What makes us special is not that we find the facts for each question asked (though researching information plays an important role), it's that we provide a discussion of ideas. Honestly, considering we find the answer to almost every single factual-related question with cursory Google searches, if people just wanted the straight facts, they could easily research these questions themselves. But they ask us. Doing so implies that they want something more than facts, so that's what we give. In your referenced question, the reader was pretty clearly using their question as a platform to express their opinions on Mormons who don't have large families. We responded in kind to the question--that is, we made our ideals the center of our answers.

Hopefully that clears up some things about the purpose of the Board, and the reasons we writers sometimes respond the way we do for you.

Since you asked, I will now go into different reasons why the birthrate is declining. As shared in this last general conference, the number of children born in the covenant (so born to Mormon parents) in 2016 was 109,246. With about 15.9 million members, this is a pretty small figure. It's also interesting to note that the number of convert baptisms, at 240,131, was more than double the number of babies born.

This actually fits in with a global trend for declining birthrates. Putting away religious concerns away for a moment, this has some not so good long-term economic implications, particularly for places like the US were we have Social Security. The way that Social Security is set up, the current working generation pays for a retirement fund for the current elderly. With each successive generation becoming smaller, that means the burden current workers pay is greater and greater. Thus, when the current people retire, the benefits they receive are much less than what they paid (this is one of the few scenarios where being a white male high earner actually causes you to suffer the greatest losses).

Because we still live in the world, it makes sense that Mormons would see a similar decrease in birthrates; the same reasons for the global decline apply to us as well. Some of those reasons include a shift from a rural to increasingly more urban society, rising opportunity costs, lower child death rates (compared with the time of the pioneers), and culture. 

When society was more rural, having more kids translated into having a cheap labor force to help out with the farm, and thereby keep the entire family alive. There is no longer a need to have as many kids, because we don't need the labor. Additionally, back when things were more rural, there was also a higher child death rate. Thus parents needed to have more kids to replace the ones that died/have back-ups for potential child fatalities.

The opportunity cost of raising children has risen significantly in the last 100 years. In part, this is because economic prosperity has increased, and women have seen much greater encouragement to enter into the workforce. Particularly for women, the cost of raising a child is greater now than 50 years ago, because she has more to give up--potential careers, pursuing alternate interests, etc.

Finally, there is no longer a stigma attached to not have huge families (except apparently in the case of the person who asked the referenced question). Because the cultural pressure to have 10 kids is gone, it makes sense that people don't have that many kids. It actually seems as though the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction in some cases, and it's a bit looked down upon for a woman to decide to be a stay-at-home mom.

~Anathema, with as cool a head right now, as she had for writing up her answer to the other question 

A:

Dear you,

I didn't answer the question in much detail, but I did provide an answer to the question: availability of birth control means people don't have to have six kids if they don't want to, and a lot of people don't want to. They probably didn't really want to back then either; they just couldn't avoid it.

There are lots of informative corrections on that answer if you're interested.

-Zedability