Evslin: Where have all the children gone?

Photo by Artem Podrez

by Tom Evslin

A long time ago when I was young, old people often lived their last years with their offspring or offspring raised their children in the home that grandma still lived in. “We need to have children to take care of us in our old age,” people often said.  “We need children to help on the family farm.” “Our children will help grow the family business.” The people who said these things went ahead and had said children, children like me and my three siblings or Mary and her six siblings.

Social security, as it was first designed, paid enough so that grandpa could retire and live with his kids without being a net burden on the family finances.  Needs-based benefits to those over 65 who retired before they had a chance to contribute to the system were capped at $30/month (about $620 of today’s dollars). It was partially meant as an inducement to get older people out of the depression-era workforce so that younger people could be employed.

No matter what our parents’ plans were for us, starting with my war baby generation it became less and less common for adults with children to also take in or live with them. Many people did – and do – contribute money and time to eldercare. We have also taken collective responsibility for older people with vastly increased social security payments and Medicare. Our children go to daycare and our parents go to eldercare or get home health care. We took collective if not individual responsibility for our parents. The collective responsibility was affordable because there were a lot of us thanks to the baby boom and relatively few of them.

We also had fewer children, in part because we had no grandparents living with us to share their care and in part because we “knew” that whatever we needed beyond our retirement savings would come from social security and Medicare. We weren’t counting on only our own kids to take care of us, our care would be the collective responsibility of our childrens’ generation. Mary and I each have 2 biological children; that’s below the rate of childbearing needed to keep the population from shrinking. Current lifetime births per woman in the US are 1.789, about half of the 3.5 births per woman at the height of the baby boom in 1950. Were it not for immigration and the fact that us geezers are living longer, total US population would be shrinking.

We know that this shrink will continue for at least a generation because the birthrate has been below the replacement level since 1973. We not only have a shortage of workers but also a shortage of women of child-bearing age to give us more workers even if the fertility rate increases.

Who will take care of us?

We shifted the eldercare burden from individual families to society as a whole. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But, since we didn’t need to have lots of children individually to provide for our old age, we had less children collectively. No matter how much they may want to, the skimpy number of successors we raised is going to have a very hard time caring for us collectively or individually. There aren’t enough of them to staff nursing homes or home health. There aren’t enough of them to keep the social security and Medicare trust funds topped off. There aren’t enough of them either to pay for or provide the increasing amount of hospital care we want to prolong our lives.

Some things could go right here in the US.

  • Artificial Intelligence will both increase the productivity of essential workers and reduce the number of white-collar workers necessary to deliver services. My smarter car is already helping me drive; I’m counting on self-driving for the time when my kids would otherwise feel obliged to take my keys away. Other automation will make up for human aids we can’t get.
  • We geezers in the US have accumulated a lot of wealth, much of it in our houses. For the first time in decades interest rates are substantially higher than inflation so our own savings will stretch further. And we have less kids than our parents did to include in our wills.
  • World population probably won’t peak until sometime in the 2080s. There are millions of would-be immigrants who want to work in the US. As more places, like Vermont, suffer a shortage of workers, a political solution to the immigration impasse could provide a legal path to increase the number of people available to work directly for us geezers and to help support us by paying taxes. AARP should lobby for that!

The author, an author, entrepreneur, former Vermont state cabinet officer, lives in Stowe. He founded NG Advantage, a natural gas truck delivery company. This commentary is republished with permission from his blog, Fractals of Change.

Categories: Commentary

11 replies »

  1. The United Nations published a document in 2000 called Replacement Migration United Nations: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations. This is why the US boarder is open. The US is a UN member state and signatory on the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Goal 10.7 of the agenda is to facilitate safe and orderly international migration. Instead of our government being transparent about why the boarder is open and on whose order, they gas light the American people. Japan is already in the midst of a population collapse and China is next due to its one child policy. You can Google this document or access it via the link at I recommend reading it.

    • Please explain your comment, as I do not understand the relativity. What does the narcissism of boomers have to do with population decline? In addition you are stereotyping all boomers as narcissists, which they are not. I am not a boomer, but am really tired of all the antiboomer hate speech. I know many kind and wonderful people from that generation.

      • Of course it’s too broad a brush, and there are plenty of wonderful Boomers. Calling out narcissism is not “hate speech”.

        That being said, please note the enacted policies reflected by the author: “We shifted the eldercare burden from individual families to society as a whole. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

        Okay – they did it. They used the fruits of a booming economy, with plenty of “good-paying union jobs,” (Thanks, JB) to shift policy from responsibilty for oneself to responsibility of the state for the welfare of the citizenry. Was that really necessary, or was it ideologically driven, particularly in Vermont? Check the history of the northward migration from urban centers to Vermont in the 60’s and 70’s, the poster person being Senator Sanders.

        They did Act 250. A niece of a friend of mine, a business student in Alabama in the ’90’s, wrote a college paper about Act 250. Her professor was so appalled at its business-killing repercussions that he actually called members of the Vermont legislature to verify that the student wasn’t writing a parody.

        And now the chickens are coming home to roost.

        So now the author, having taken, as a generation, responsibility for the changes in policy that have made Vermont unlivable for working-class, untrustfunded people, is wondering who (and what) ELSE can come to his valuable house to take care of his most basic needs as he ages along with the rest of his peers.

        First, he looks longingly at AI – to replace, you know, those expensive white collar workers. OK, what are the consequences? No white collar workers, building families and having children to come take care of him. Lack of recognition of broader policy implications in order to suit one’s immediate needs is narcissism. (And wait until that AI-guided self-driving car encounters an emergency vehicle on a beautiful dirt (mud) road in April.)

        Next, he again points out a generational differentiator (to more directly answer you query): “We geezers in the US have accumulated a lot of wealth, much of it in our houses.” Yes, they benefitted from a powerhouse manufacturing economy rebuilding from the rubble of WWII abroad as well as serving the needs of a growing population domestically, unionization, strong family farms, pensions, and a vital middle class that was able to permeate the economy with discretionary income. Those days are, obviously, gone. Visit any industrial park in Vermont.

        And instead of acknowledging these results of POLICY, (from Boomers in power at the federal and state levels) that all but destroyed our manufacturing economy, small farms, and now small businesses, the author wonders if maybe migrants, “who want to work in the US…DIRECTLY FOR US GEEZERS,” can help him stay clean and get around.

        I respectfully invite you to reconsider the implications of that statement. My interpretation is, “We got the money, we can just hire the cheapest labor to serve us, directly, for dirt wages.” Narcissism. No consideration of policy implications. Where will these workers live, get around, educate their children, go the the dentist, etc. etc. ad nauseum?

        With eight million illegal migrants now in the country since 2020, could maybe the author can look, again, someplace else, to someone else’s experience, for immigrant policy implications? Say, New York City? South Side Chicago? Staten Island? I argue that no, once again it’s too much for these boomers to look beyond their immediate needs to contemplate the consequences of policy before pointing to it like a shiny toy as the solution to their domestic staffing problems.

        War correspondent Michael Yon posted this 11-second clip of a nice young man coming to the US from Colombia via the Darien Gap, obviously wanting to work in the US:

        Do you, “Geezers,” think he will make a good home care aide, accept his wages, and pay his taxes?

        We shall see. Be careful what you ask for.

    • Kudos, Tyler for mentioning this wackodoodle article. People aren’t dying of C-19. They’re experiencing injurious harm and death as a result of the ‘jab’. ‘Died suddenly’ is the term used now. Young athletes are now dying of myocarditis?! Tom Evslin needs to come clean.

  2. Many women, especially the lefty feminist types, ubiquitous to Vermont, don’t really want to be mothers. Well, at least not until it’s too late to find a decent husband and safely have more than one child, if even that. They also don’t want to depend on, or be accountable to a man, instead preferring the state, i.e. men’s predominately paid contribution to taxes and legally enforced payouts in the form of child support and alimony. The men, wising up to all of this, avoid marriage, children, and thus the family courts. Hence… the title of this article. And none of this is by accident.

    • You are correct but I will also add that dedicated, hard-working family men like my father are few and far between. Wise women who want no part of govt assistance don’t want to end up rearing children alone and working twice as hard to prove their half as good at well-paying male dominated jobs. One child it is.

  3. Immigrants can’t come here until the government creates a workable immigration policy, and the won’t come here if there is no housing for them.

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