Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Birthrates in Italy, in Europe generally, are falling! Russell Shorto had the breaking news yesterday in our Former Paper of Record:
In the 1990s, European demographers began noticing a downward trend in population across the Continent and behind it a sharply falling birthrate. Non-number-crunchers largely ignored the information until a 2002 study by Italian, German and Spanish social scientists focused the data and gave policy makers across the European Union something to ponder. The figure of 2.1 is widely considered to be the “replacement rate” — the average number of births per woman that will maintain a country’s current population level. At various times in modern history — during war or famine — birthrates have fallen below the replacement rate, to “low” or “very low” levels. But Hans-Peter Kohler, José Antonio Ortega and Francesco Billari — the authors of the 2002 report — saw something new in the data. For the first time on record, birthrates in southern and Eastern Europe had dropped below 1.3. For the demographers, this number had a special mathematical portent. At that rate, a country’s population would be cut in half in 45 years, creating a falling-off-a-cliff effect from which it would be nearly impossible to recover.
Well what do you know. Of course, Mark Steyn had the scoop on this in The New Criterion back in January 2006 in an article called “It’s the Demography Stupid” (registration required):
When it comes to forecasting the future, the birth rate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it’s hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the western world is that they’re running out a lot faster than the oil is. “Replacement” fertility rate—i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller—is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?
Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you’ll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada’s fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That’s to say, Spain’s population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy’s population will have fallen by 22 percent, Bulgaria’s by 36 percent, Estonia’s by 52 percent. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: in the 2004 election, John Kerry won the sixteen with the lowest birth rates; George W. Bush took twenty-five of the twenty-six states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans—and mostly red-state Americans.
Mark went on to elaborate his observations in America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. The book was a best-seller–you could find it on the Times‘s best-seller list for quite a while. But that’s the only place you could find it in the Times. You see, The New York Times doesn’t review books by people like Mark Steyn. Now, two years later, Russell Shorto breaks the silence and refers to the “Canadian conservative Mark Steyn” and his book in passing. People who read The New Criterion or who bought Mark’s book knew all about the demographic dégringolade in Europe a couple of years ago. But it’s a breaking story to those who get their news from The New York Times. “All the News that’s Fit to Print”? How about “Yesterday’s News, Spun and Bent”?