Toward More Happy Mother’s Days
Birthrates are declining all over the world, and even in Idaho. The leftist Idaho Statesman ran an opinion piece pretending to be worried about this “unsettling trend.” Policies promoting gender equity are, according to the author, pro-family and such policies will lead to greater birth rates.
The article is shallow, ideologically-driven propaganda with the trappings of science (numbers and all!). Most telling is that the author never mentions promoting marriage to achieve higher birthrates. Declines in birthrates always track declines in marriage. More than 60% of Idahoans were married in 2005, while only 54% were married in 2019. Birth rates went down 25% during that period.
The real problem, the author claims, is that Idaho is one of the worst states for working mothers. Idaho ranks 47th for working mothers according to some group. Let us grant the validity of the study. The fact that Idaho ranks 11th in fertility suggests that conditions for working mothers are unimportant in determining birthrates. The best states for working mothers, according to the study, are Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Vermont has the lowest birth rate among all fifty states, Connecticut has the fourth lowest, and Massachusetts has the sixth lowest. The fiftieth ranked state for working mothers, Mississippi, has among the highest birth rates.
Our author seems to think that quality day care and paid family leave are keys to elevating birthrates. This is untrue. Nearly every modern country in the world has those policies and nearly every country in the world has birthrates lower than Idaho's. Emphasizing parental responsibility is the key to elevating birthrates.
The article pretends to take the conservative goal of raising birthrates seriously while offering every feminist and leftist policy as the solution.
Conservatives will be hearing the same kind of argument around abortion. The leading cause of abortion is poverty, we will be told, and we must provide significant public support for working mothers once children are born to show that we care. But abortion is a middle class and upper middle class phenomenon. Women living below the poverty line abort just under 9% of their babies, but women earning more than the national average abort about a third of their babies, according to a 2015 report by left-leaning Brookings Institute. Abortion is not about desperate poverty; it reflects honoring work and career more than motherhood.
That really is the rub. Birthrates are higher where motherhood is honored and valued. Motherhood is honored and valued where marriage is honored and valued. Helping mothers to leave the home so they can invest their time in the workplace does not promote family life, marriage, and large families.
According to economist Aaron Clarey, getting married, once an important goal for women, now ranks 5th behind independence, career, leisure, and recreation as a life goal. Birth rates will suffer given these priorities.
We used to think that the sexual dance between men and women was natural and inevitable. No longer. Social support is needed to encourage the dance and to put limits on it. Social support is also needed to point that dance toward marriage. Economic assistance for families is not superfluous—but it should be channeled through marriage. That is what is done in Hungary and Poland these days.
Idaho could experiment with such assistance. Ideas for such assistance include relief from property taxes or from student debt for those who are married and have two children before they are thirty years old; school choice programs to encourage parental responsibility; and flexible job practices—especially encouraging part-time work—that help women prioritize family life without totally leaving the workplace. Stopping our public institutions from sowing gender confusion among the young should also be a priority, as should physical fitness programs and celebration of motherhood and responsible fatherhood.
Action Idaho will be concerned with developing a full-fledged family policy for Idaho in the coming months.
Those interested in this article might also be interested in:
Idaho Babies and Corpses: National Trends in Births and Deaths in Idaho
Lose the Culture, Lose the Family from First Things