Finally, childless cities exacerbate the rural-urban
conundrum that has come to define American politics. With its rich
blue cities and red rural plains, the U.S. has an economy biased
toward high-density areas but an electoral system biased toward
low-density areas. The discrepancy has the trappings of a
constitutional crisis. The richest cities have become magnets
for redundant masses of young rich liberals, making them electorally
impotent. Hillary Clinton won Brooklyn by 461,000 votes, about seven
times the margin by which she lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, and
Wisconsin combined. Meanwhile, rural voters draw indignant power
from their perceived economic weakness. Trump won with majority
support in areas that produce just one-third of GDP by showering
hate and vitriol on cities that attract immigration and capital.
Is there a solution to the childless city?
Surely, downtown areas can be made more family-friendly.
Mayors can be more aggressive about overcoming the forces of
NIMBYism by building affordable housing near downtown areas. The
federal government can
help. The trouble is that some of the causes are too big for
any metro to solve.
If global demographics had a television show, it’d be
called “No Sex
in the City.” Across the developed world, couples aren’t just
having fewer children. They’re having less sex, as Kate Julian has reported—and
my podcast Crazy/Genius has explored.
The possible culprits of this “sex recession” include “hookup
culture, crushing economic pressures, surging anxiety rates,
psychological frailty, widespread antidepressant use, streaming
television, environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, dropping
testosterone levels, digital porn, the vibrator’s golden age, dating
apps, option paralysis, helicopter parents, careerism, smartphones,
the news cycle, information overload generally, sleep deprivation,
[and] obesity.” The trend extends far beyond the U.S. According to
the Japan Family Planning Association, 45
percent of women ages 15–24 “were not interested in or
despised sexual contact,” and more than a quarter of men said they
felt the same way.
MacNamara: Liberal Societies Have Dangerously Low Birth Rates
Even couples in affluent countries who are having sex
might be naturally happy with fewer children. As the cost of child
care has soared relative to income, it’s proven quite difficult for
public policy to encourage couples to have more kids. The nation of
is experimenting with perhaps the most aggressive pro-fertility
policy in the developed world, with housing benefits and large tax
exemptions for children far greater than what's offered in the U.S.
That nation's fertility rate is still
extremely low and far beneath the replacement rate, which
might suggest that couples in advanced economies—and, in
particularly, educated mothers in advanced economies—simply don’t
want more children.