(OPINION) Integration or Crisis? In the Age of Migration, Those are the Only Choices

Providing safe, legal, and larger-scale pathways to immigration will solve critical problems. Opposing immigration, though offered as a solution, is a false idol—doing so only ensures that the very real problems of population aging and border crises will continue to worsen.

Rich countries are facing many problems, but two of the most concerning are the aging and shrinking of their labor forces and the crush of migrants at their borders. Neither problem can be solved on its own.

The typical approach to the aging and shrinking of the labor force is to offer incentives for women to have more children. Yet many countries’ efforts in this regard have proven to be fools’ errands. The most expensive and comprehensive family support programs, such as those of France, Sweden, and Russia, have barely moved the total fertility of women back to two children per household. The global trend, from East Asia to Western Europe, is dipping well below that level.

The reason is simple: In a world where women can receive professional educations and have careers—and where childcare, education, and housing are all very expensive—having three or four children seems far too costly, both in terms of actual expenses and foregone careers. Note that to reach a fertility level of three children per woman, for every woman that chooses to have just one child, two other women must have at least four—a ratio that simply will not materialize. Unless we somehow recreate the conditions that underlaid the baby boom—cheap housing in new suburbs, free higher education at state schools, and a near-complete ban on women doing anything other than homemaking—the four-child household will be as much a relic of the past as the Upstairs/Downstairs world of lifelong domestic service. Conditions have changed; the past will not return.

Jack A. Goldstone, The National Interest, November 23, 2021
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