Whenever you hear the words “record setting” when applied to demographics or economics, be cautious.
Here’s an example. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just announced that the US birth rate hit a record low in 2011.
How low? At 63.2 babies per 1,000 women, it’s half the rate it was in the 50’s and the 60’s (a number that was somewhat higher than normal due to the post-WW2 baby boom).
While that may be a good thing in the long run, in the short run it’s a sign of economic stress. Couples tend to have fewer kids when they can’t afford them.
As such, it’s a pretty good indicator that the US economy — along with median incomes that shrank 1.5% last year and net worth that hasn’t recovered after a precipitous fall — is shrinking no matter what the no nothing economists on TV say.
That’s a useful bit of information to have when planning for the future.
Is there any good news in this report?
Firstly, the CDC also reported that teenage births (15-19) are falling quickly. They are down 25% from four years ago, and are only 1/3 (wow!) of what they were in 1991.
Secondly, the fact that people are putting off having kids may be a sign that something else is afoot. A seismic shift in the economic landscape the likes of which we have seen since the wholesale industrialization of the 20’s and the 30’s.
Shifting to what (there don’t seem to be any industries of the future anymore)? As I mentioned in my speech at the World Maker Faire in New York City last weekend, we’re in the process of re-localizing our economy.
We’re bringing the production of food, energy, water, and products to the communities where we live to both insulate ourselves from an increasingly turbulent global system and to increase our chances at prosperity.
If we are truly in a shift, it’s great news….
Arable Land is Shrinking
Problem: The amount of arable land per person decreased from about an acre in 1970 to roughly half an acre in 2000 and is projected to decline to about a third of an acre by 2050….
Resilient Solution: Make more arable land. Foodscape your yard like this:
I ran out of time today. More on Saturday.