The Procreation Recession 11/25

Why are people are losing interest in sex, marriage, and children?

Yuval Levin writes,

The good news is often just one consequence of the bad. There are fewer divorces because there are fewer marriages, and so more of those that begin survive. There are fewer abortions because there are fewer pregnancies, and so more of those that happen are wanted. There are fewer out-of-wedlock births because there are fewer births in general. The same pattern is evident beyond sexuality and family too. Fewer teenagers are dying in car accidents because fewer teenagers are getting driver’s licenses. There is less social disorder, we might say, because there is less social life.


Excessive risk aversion now often deforms parenting, education, work, leadership, and fellowship in our society. It is intertwined with a more general tendency toward inhibition and constriction—with Americans walking on eggshells around each other in many of our major institutions, and with codes of speech and conduct becoming increasingly prevalent.

Not surprisingly, he views technology as a causal factor.

Particularly for Americans who live in cities, the internet has also come to mediate different parts of our real-world experience (from dating to calling a taxi to getting food at a restaurant) in ways that have let more people live as functional loners, meeting their needs with a minimum of eye contact or interpersonal risk. And countless younger Americans dissipate their erotic energies in similar seemingly riskless substitutes for human contact, particularly video games and pornography—the latter of which has grown into a hideous, colossal scourge that our society has inexplicably decided to pretend it can do nothing about. 

I would add that smart phones and the Internet orient us toward the immediate and away from the enduring. I’m old enough to remember when romance grew out of knowing someone in the context of mutual friends. Your relationship was embedded in a group history, and the collective friendship helped maintain it into the future.

From the standpoint of the immediate, the decision to have a child might seem about as consequential as the decision to acquire a pet, only with more expenses to worry about (like day care). But a pet does not create a new, deeper relationship with your parents or provide them with the thrill of grandchildren. And pets do not give you the prospect of someday becoming grandparents yourselves.

Having children matters to someone who feels a connection with the past and the future. They star in the epic movie that is your life. Possibilities about how their lives may play out fill your daydreams. I worry that, distracted by tech gadgets, many people don’t have time to daydream and their movie has lost the plot.