The United States experienced a baby boom after World War II—from 1946 to 1964—which led to public concern that the planet Earth could not sustain that sort of birth rate. Sixty years later, marriage and family are declining and the population of the United States is no longer thriving.


In What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, author Jonathan Last “offers the stunning facts about America’s demographic demise and what happens as our fertility rate plummets.”


As baby boomers grew older, fears from overpopulation included “people jostling for space on a planet that’s running out of oil and food and land and everything else.” The picture of under population, however, is just as bleak: “Disease. War. Economic collapse. All are on the horizon—absent a drastic change in our views about the value of raising children.”


Mormon FamilyThe United States isn’t the only country experiencing a slowdown in population growth. China, for instance is already in decline. Fearing overpopulation of their country, the Chinese government, in 1980, limited family size to one child. Due to that and the age-old bias for boys, the birth ratio is almost 120 boys for every 100 girls. Projections suggest that China will face a growing number of young men who will never marry. Last said that “by 2050, China will be losing 20 million people every five years.”


Marriage and family trends in America are startling. “Middle-class Americans have their own, informal one-child policy these days. And an alarming number of upscale professionals don’t even go that far—they have dogs, not kids. In fact, if it weren’t for the wave of immigration we experienced over the last thirty years, the United States would be on the verge of shrinking, too.”



The trend is a concern for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called the Mormon Church. In 1995, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which details the eternal nature of the family and the responsibilities of family members. Latter-day Saints believe the declaration that “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” (See Genesis 1:28.) Five or six children in a Mormon family in the United States is common, although the Church has no set rule on how many children parents should have. The desire and commitment to bear children is so prevalent within the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ, a Latter-day Saint reading the title of Last’s book may have understood it to mean that he would be exploring the heartache of couples who face infertility.



The new research and statistics about America’s population that Last reveals are startling:


“America has its very own One Child Policy: The fertility rate for white, college-educated women is 1.6—roughly equal to China’s.”


“The cost to raise a child in 2012 is $1.1 million. . . . Education is the main driver of costs, increasing in real dollars by 1,000 percent in the last 35 years.”


“Children are now a marker of social failure: the more successful a couple is, the fewer children they’re likely to have.”


“America’s fertility rate is the highest in the industrialized world, but that’s only because of illegal immigration. And contrary to conservative fears, without the fertility of our immigrants, we’d be in even worse shape.”


“Abortion has played a role in declining fertility rates. In the ten years after Roe, 13.62 million children were aborted, more than 1 in 4 pregnancies.”


Last’s book explores why the “population implosion happened and how it is remaking culture, the economy, and politics both at home and around the world.” Reversing this trend is key to revitalizing America.


This article was written by Paula Hicken, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Paula Hicken MormonPaula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.


Additional Resources:


Defending the Family in a Troubled World


Purpose of Family – Happiness in Family Life


China grapples with legacy of its ‘missing girls’


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