In 1928, the fertility rate of American females (aged 15 to 44) was 93.8 per 100,000. By 1931, the first year of full Great Depression and collapse, the rate had declined to 84.6. It would bottom out, unsurprisingly, around 1933 and 1935 and the end of the contraction part of the depression. But what made that economic event “great” wasn’t just that one forward piece. It was instead the fact that it lingered on and on for more than a full decade.
As such, fertility rates in America would remain subdued until the later years of WWII. It was one reason economist Alvin Hansen conjured his (incorrect) secular stagnation thesis. Without the demographic tailwind, he surmised, growth would be exceedingly difficult as a baseline matter.
Way - Growth - Babies - WWII - Restoration
But what if it was the other way around? What if growth came first and then came the babies, as they did following WWII and the restoration of economic function after sixteen years of pent up demand and persisting unwanted pessimism (plus more than a little stabilization to the global monetary system).
Fertility rates during the Baby Boomer years, defined as 1946 through 1964, were an impressive and wholly unexpected 113.4.
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There are always grave social and political consequences to prolonged stagnation or depression. It goes way beyond mere statistics of output and labor utilization. The US came out of the Great Depression in many ways nothing like how it went into it. People accepted a very different form of political arrangement (New Deal, to put it simply) because the old way clearly didn’t work – even if nobody could...
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