California is facing an unprecedented demographic shift as our citizens are aging and birthrates are not keeping up.
The Governor-elect and members of the State Legislature must prepare for this inevitable shift in population by prioritizing early childhood development in policy and budget decisions. We need to value every child in California as precious to our state’s future.
Prioritizing policies and programs that affect young children and their families is both the “right” thing to do and the “selfish” thing to do. Especially for those of us – with and without kids – facing a time in the future during which we will turn to others to help in our care.
California birthrates fell to an all-time low in 2016, to 12.42 births per 1,000 people. This number falls below what is called the “replacement rate,” meaning Californians simply are not having enough babies to sustain current population levels. Birthrates are falling for all racial and ethnic groups, but most dramatically for Latinos. What’s more, migration into California, both from other states and from abroad, has been dropping since 1990.
In 1970, children made up one-third of California’s population, but by 2030 they will make up only one-fifth.
This will have a deep impact on our society and the economy.
In 2015, Dowell Meyers, a demographer and urban planner at the University of Southern California, published a Societal Index of Children’s Importance. It concluded that children born in 2015 will grow up to assume nearly twice the economic burden of someone born in 1985.
The data reminds me of post-apocalyptic science fiction movies that explore humanity’s struggles to survive a spectacularly dramatic population-changing event.
A generation ago, films like Soylent Green, Z.P.G., and Logan’s Run explored the then-current fears of runaway population growth. Today, films like Children of Men and Mad Max: Fury Road along with The Handmaid’s Tale series give frightening forecasts of what happens decades after societies experience shrinking populations. The kind we are beginning to experience now.
Businesses have already been keeping a close eye on how many children are being born, and adjusting accordingly.