The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do about It / Edition 1

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Overpopulation has long been a global concern. But between modern medicine and reduced fertility, world population may in fact be shrinking--and is almost certain to do so by the time today's children retire. The troubling implications for our economy and culture include:* The possibility of a fundamentalist revival due to the decline of secular fertility* The threat to the free market as the supply of workers and consumers declines* The eventual collapse of the American health care system as inordinate expenses are incurred by an aging populationPhillip Longman's uncompromisingly sensible solutions fly in the face of traditional ideas. State intervention is necessary, he argues, to combat the effects of an aging population. We must provide incentives for young families, and we cannot close our eyes and hope for the best as an entire generation approaches retirement age.The Empty Cradle changes the terms of one of the most important environmental, economic, and social debates of our day.
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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
We still hear about the dangers of rising world population, from the current six billion to ten billion or more. Longman sees things differently: he is concerned about the sharp decline in birthrates, below that required to sustain the population, in most rich countries, increasingly in middle-income countries, and even in some poor countries, such as China. The book explores the reasons for declining natality, which are to be found in significant and continuing increases both in the direct costs of having children in rich countries, including post-secondary education, and in the forgone income of at least one parent. (Moreover, parents these days are unable to appropriate the value of educating and training their children, as they once could through the family farm or business, and through assured help in old age.) It also addresses the negative implications of the sharp decline in birthrates for fiscal sustainability, economic growth, and social cohesion. Longman argues, on practical rather than religious grounds, in favor of efforts to raise birthrates. He urges that policies in the United States and other rich countries encourage more children: for example, relieving parents from Social Security taxes, on the grounds that they, unlike their childless contemporaries, are making investments in the future viability of the Social Security system by rearing and educating children. The book also provides Web addresses where the many facts and analyses cited can be pursued.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465050505
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/12/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 9.76 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Phillip Longman is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of numerous articles and books on demographics and public policy. Formerly a senior writer and editor at US News & World Report, he has written for such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Table of Contents

1 The fundamentalist moment 1
2 Coffins and cradles 7
3 America's vanishing labor supply 15
4 The new human environment 29
5 People power 37
6 Fading nations 47
7 The cost of children 69
8 The cost of aging 89
9 The slowing pace of progress 113
10 Home economics 133
11 Freedom and fertility 151
12 Work and family 171
Notes 197
Index 227
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  • Posted October 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Absolutely One of the Most Important Books I've Ever Read

    Demography is destiny. There is very little we can predict in this world, but once we know how many babies there are, we know how many people there will be. But Longman is no mere demographer spouting numbers. As a senior fellow at the New American Foundation, Longman is trained to examine the meaning of trends. Some of the blockbusters in the book are that population growth is the most vital ingredient for economic growth. High levels of savings and technological advancement mean almost nothing without it. Medical advances are not the answer because they are not prolonging our lives. People who reach age 50 today live only slightly longer than people who reached 50 fifty years ago. There is a strong economic incentive to not have children. The cost of raising a child from birth to 18 is over $200,000. It's over a million dollars if a wife who earned $45,000 works half-time until the child turns eighteen. The pension bankruptcies of GM and United Airlines are only the first tremors of an economic earthquake we will feel throughout the century as medical costs for retirees go up and the proportion of workers paying into the system goes down. The bottom line is you will never read another book that's as likely to predict our future than this one. Read it!

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