The rise of the People’s Republic of China may be attributed to a single, overriding factor – an enormous population pool. This vast population developed into the factory workers producing goods for the entire world, channeling wealth into China. This population developed into the enormous Chinese army. Similar trends are developing in Nigeria and India, both of which will see massive growth in populations over the course of the 21st century. Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a host of other African nations will see their populations rise by 200-400% by 2100. As this happens, the power, influence, and prosperity of the American nation will decline.
America’s fertility rate has plummeted over the past 30 years, falling below the replacement level of 2.1 births per female. America has “made up” this deficit with immigration – but the declining global fertility rate means that fewer immigrants will arrive at American shores. Furthermore, as more nations reach developed status, fewer immigrants will desire to come to America – why move to a far off, foreign nation when there are plenty of opportunities at home? Already, the consequences of this problem have emerged. Toys R’Us went bankrupt, in part, due to lack of demand as a result of fewer children being born (though online retail and huge amounts of debt were undoubtedly also a factor). Other problems manifest themselves in pension plans. Social Security benefits, for example, will likely decrease, as the share of the American populace aged over 65 increases by several percentage points.
Other nations, such as Japan, along with a large swath of Europe, face massive socioeconomic problems due to their shrinking population. Japan’s economy has completely stagnated since 1995, which also happens to be the year during which Japan’s population growth stagnated. Russian leader Vladimir Putin was forced to, against the desire of 90% of his people, raise the Russian retirement age due to enormous potential social problems. Western Europe – whose economic boom after World War II corresponded directly to a demographic boom – faces a demographic implosion. A shrinking European labor pool, combined with an aging European population, is not a recipe for economic success or social stability. Clearly, the problems that may face America are evident.
Solving this problem will certainly be more difficult than identifying it. For starters, childbirth is an important decision for families to make – the government should not be forcing individuals to have children. Policies aimed at increasing population, historically, involve dramatically restricting access to abortion – a topic which I do not want to cover on this site. However, there are numerous policies that the government could implement at this very moment, which have the potential to alleviate or reverse America’s threatening demographic trends. The problem is not a cultural problem – merely 5% of Americans do not want to have kids (this figure was 4% in 1990), but rather an economic problem. 75% of Americans believe that the reason as to why people are not having more children is due to economics, and given the high cost of college and childcare in the United States, it is obvious as to why economics is the primary obstacle against having children.
Childcare in the United States is a very expensive proposition, and the cost of childcare has exploded over the past twenty years. A national free childcare program, akin to the one proposed by Bernie Sanders, may be a viable solution. Universal childcare is an expensive proposition – to the tune of around 140 billion dollars per year – but it is also an investment. A larger population of better-educated children will contribute large amounts to the American tax base, providing socioeconomic stability for decades to come. Furthermore, childcare would allow for more parents to go to work – increasing national economic productivity and further increasing tax revenues.
The other economic detriment against raising a child in the United States is the high cost of college tuition. Attending college is seen as vitally important in the modern economy; despite the fact that the trades provide a steady source of income and the fact that trade school is much cheaper than college. Trade school should be presented as a viable alternative in today’s economy, especially to families who may not be financially able to send their children to college. Additionally, to combat America’s saddening STEM shortage, degrees in Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science should be subsidized by the American government. These degrees are a stepping stone to a high-quality job, and providing these degrees free of charge would incentivize more Americans to be involved in STEM. These highly productive jobs would then contribute greatly to the American economy, strengthening the American nation.
Thirdly, barriers to legal immigration must be greatly reduced. In his State of the Union address, Donald Trump claimed that he wanted legal immigrants to enter America in “the largest numbers ever”. If he legitimately wants this to occur, President Trump should remove the H1B visa cap. There is no sensible reason to restrict the flow of highly educated, technically competent individuals into the United States. A complicated system of quotas and restrictions must be streamlined and simplified. People wait years to enter this great nation – this should not be the case. Our system must be improved and streamlined.
These three policies are all viable and entirely possible options to implement, and all of them would greatly help in fighting off a potential “demographic bomb”. The future of America lies in the future of its people. An America with a shrinking, aging population, has no future – but an America with a young, talented, and booming population will have a tremendous, prosperous, and powerful future.