How many children were born to your great-grandparents? How many born to your grandparents? How many to your parents? And if you’re a parent, how many children were born to you and your spouse?
For me, the answers on my paternal side are 8, 6 and 6: eight children born to my great-grandparents (two of whom died as teenagers) and six children born to my grandparents (one of whom died in infancy). Six children were born to my parents (one of whom died in infancy) and my husband and I had four children.
On my mother’s side of the family, the answer is 4, 2 and 6. My great-grandparents had four children (two of whom died in infancy) and my grandparents had two children (one of whom died in infancy). As previously mentioned, my folks bore six and I had four.
I ask these questions for two reasons. The first: I’m a genealogy nut and these kind of comparisons are interesting to me, and secondly, I consider demographics a fascinating way in which to understand some things about our world.
I’ll put this into the context of a new book I ran across this week. The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation of 2014-2019 looks like an interesting entry into the overall demographics discussion. Author Harry S. Dent, Jr. (not to be confused with the Batman franchise’s Two-Face character Harvey Dent) has written at least eight previous books in which he discusses population trends and how these trends interface with market outcomes and a population’s eventual impact on an economy.
As a Baby Boomer myself, I find Dent’s observations compelling. My husband and I tend to reflect many of the buying and spending patterns of our fellow Baby Boomers. Dent uses Japan as a primary exhibit in extrapolating how the aging of a culture has a direct impact on a nation’s economy.
Entering their 60s and 70s, Baby Boomers are moving away from the “I can afford it” and “I deserve it” mode into an opposite, the mode of capital preservation. As a general rule, Baby Boomers are thinking less about the newer, bigger house or the head-turning new automobile and focusing more on maintaining sufficient funds to support our independence by keeping the nest-egg funded long enough to make it to our final breath.
I ask my Baby Boomer friends, am I wrong?
If you’re a member of a younger generation, Dent’s scenario won’t offer any comfort to you. In fact, if you take a look at most of his other book titles, Dent’s doom and gloom theme seems to predominate. In a December post at Business Insider, author Steven Perlberg (who looks to be much younger than the Baby Boomer demo) sardonically characterizes Dent’s latest book as “cheery stuff.” Another post (The Market Oracle from the UK) begins an author interview with these words: “There’s little happy talk in Harry Dent’s new book …”
Ever since the 1987 release of Ben J. Wattenberg‘s book, The Birth Dearth, I’ve paid some attention to the discussion surrounding population trends. I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I’ve always looked at the trends that were operative in my own family tree.
Certainly, one of the primary things I learn from my family history, I’m immensely grateful we live in an age when infant mortality has decreased considerably. Just looking at the trend of births in several generations of my family seems significant. My paternal great-grandparents had twice as many children as my husband and I. Furthermore, many of our peers characterized our family as being on the “large” side. (For families with one or two children, four does indeed seem large.)
On my maternal side, I had the same number of births as my great-grandparents, but significantly, all of my children lived into adulthood.
I also find it striking that my paternal great-grandparents (having emigrated from Germany and settling in St. Louis) raised a larger family overall than my maternal great-grandparents who had been born and whose family had been rooted in Philadelphia from several previous generations. I can’t help wondering if this was an expression of differences between the two sub-cultures (eastern US and central US).
What do you think? Are we headed over a cliff, as Harry S. Dent suggests? Whether or not it’s a cliff, I think it’s prudent to weigh the possibilities and consider our options. Your comments and observations are always welcome!