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A Happier Society Would Have More Children

Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in more than half a century, and they’re not having children.

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If your neighbors seem depressed, that’s because they probably are.

Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in more than half a century, and they’re not having children.

According to new data from the General Social Survey highlighted by former Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham, just 19 percent of Americans last year said they were “very happy,” down from 31 percent, nearly a third, three years before. Twenty-four percent in 2021 said they were “not too happy.”

Americans are also having fewer children than ever before, with the nation’s birth rate falling for the sixth consecutive year in 2020 to its lowest ever. Just 3.6 million babies were born, according to CDC statistics, down from 3.7 million the year before.

There are a lot of reasons why Americans aren’t having more children. Marriage is declining so rapidly that married people will soon be the minority. Faith, the bedrock of a moral society that incentivizes children (and empirically raises levels of happiness) has deteriorated so much that church membership has already dropped below 50 percent, according to Gallup. Americans aren’t even having as much sex, or even engaging in masturbation which signals a lack of interest.

According to the Pew Research Center in November, no baby boom is expected anytime soon. Only about a quarter of non-parents under the age of 50 reported they were “very likely” to have children, down from 32 percent in 2018. Forty-four percent said they were “not too likely” or “not at all likely” to have children whatsoever.

A bar chart showing that the share of non-parents younger than 50 who say they are not likely to have children is up from 2018
Graph from Anna Brown, Pew Research Center

More and more, the childless with no plans to change are blaming societal ills from financial woes to climate change for their reluctance to have kids. So much hesitancy has been placed on climate change that analysts at Morgan Stanley warned investors in August the “movement to not have children owing to fears over climate change is growing and impacting fertility rates quicker than any preceding trend in the field of fertility decline.”

Three years ago, celebrity icon Miley Cyrus, once an icon for young girls, graced the cover of Elle Magazine professing her refusal to have children because the “Earth is angry” in a fringe view now creeping into the mainstream.

In 2020, a Morning Consult survey showed 1 in 4 adults cited climate change as a motivating reason to remain childless. A study published by The Lancet in September found nearly 40 percent of Gen Zers aged 16-25 across 10 countries including the United States, said climate change made them hesitant to have kids. Many Americans of childbearing age are even preemptively self-sterilizing.

As civic institutions hollow out, breeding a generation of isolated millennials content to quarantine in their bedrooms and live online, the underlying message a depressed and childless society sends is that life is so miserable, who would want to live it? The planet so exhausted (it’s not), who would want to receive it? And if the baby has down syndrome, might as well abort it.

“I think it’s morally wrong to bring a child into the world,” Isabel, a 28-year-old whose last name was kept from print at her request, told Bari Weiss’s Substack newsletter “Common Sense.” “No matter how good someone has it, they will suffer.”

A happy population is one that flourishes with procreation, so enamored by its miracle that it chooses to pay it forward with pride so that future generations may experience the same gift. That no matter its trials, life is worth living, and it’s worth bestowing onto others.

Instead, life’s rejection of the unborn out of spite for an allegedly evil and crumbling civilization is a signal of deep-seated anguish on the rise today.