Lecture and abstract of the conference entitled:
Demography and the Culture of Relationship between Couples
27-29 May 2021, Hungary
Organized by Family Science Alliance, Batthyány Society of Professors and European Family Science Society
The “why” of demographic decline: cost and culture
As Hungarian Minister, Katalin Novák, has said, “Europe has become the continent of the empty crib.” What factors contribute to declining fertility? Where can countries experiencing demographic decline turn to find solutions? Both hard costs and opportunity costs impact childbearing and childrearing. While countries seek to off-set these costs, the expense of these governmental programs, combined with their less than stellar long-term impact, gives rise to the question of sustainability. So, where else might we look in the noble quest to help families have the children they desire and return a country to solid demographic footing?
Culture. The Sexual Revolution has greatly impacted fertility rates. Increasing pre-marital sex, increasing cohabitation and declining marriage rates, later and later age of marriage, and of course, abortion are all indicators that the low cost of sex has been very expensive. When we, as a society, walked away from chastity, we literally walked away from children.
If a nation is serious about increasing fertility and a case can be made that late-age-marriage is a significant contributor to fertility decline, then a focus on promoting and assisting strong and stable marriage should be a place to begin. Additional recommendations to further influence a cultural shift towards higher fertility include: the use of marketing and media outlets to promote marriage and children and the valued role of fatherhood; recognizing religion’s positive role in inspiring and supporting marriage, children and family; emphasizing a form of women’s rights that is pro-natal; structuring society to satisfy marriage and family interests rather than just business interests; value motherhood and “unpaid-care work” as much as careerism.
In contrast to depressing and often threatening narratives around us, today, marriage and the family that springs from it, should be viewed as a source of meaning, joy and a path forward. There is nothing more hopeful, healing and forward looking than marriage and the birth of new human life.
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