Missing Children:

How Falling Birthrates Turn Everything Upside Down Sometime around 1969—no one is sure of the exact date—a turning point occurred in the history of the human race. Then and still today, most people had no idea that it had occurred, much less grasped its consequences for the twenty-first century. Even among the very few professional demographers who noticed the first data point, most regarded it as a mere measurement error. As with many contagious phenomena, however, it is possible to reconstruct roughly where this one began and to map its eventual spread across the globe. Though there had been hints of it before in different populations, its first major breakout was officially recorded in Scandinavia. In 1970, when Sweden, Finland, and Denmark conducted their annual tallies of births and deaths for the previous year, the numbers suggested that young adults were having so few children that they might not succeed in replacing their generation. Not for many years could this be shown definitively; most demographers at the time were strongly inclined to believe that it would never prove true. The explanation for the dwindling number of annual births in these countries, many believed, was simply that members of the rising generation were typically delaying getting married and having their first child. This trend, which was obvious to anyone familiar with the changing lifestyle of Scandinavia’s young adults in the late 1960s, would logically enough drive down the annual birthrate in the short term. But it left open the possibility that young Scandinavians would later get around to producing enough children to avoid population decline. The reigning theory of population at the time also pushed most demographers to this conclusion. It held that as death rates and particularly rates of infant and child mortality declined in a developing nation, so too, with a lag, would birthrates. The lag would cause a temporary explosion in population, as had occurred in Eu
Please subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.