Until recently most of the world got married and settled down in their late teens, early twenties. But now if you take a look at your contacts, most of your friends still have not settled down yet, not too many “Mr & Mrs.” in your address book even into your late thirties. To us that is normal, it is rare for people to get married before thirty now and if they do, it typically has a higher chance of divorce. Waiting to get married until you are a bit older and wiser is common now in America.
Women are more prevalent in the workplace so they have more reason to dedicate their time and money to something other than a white picket fence and a ballgown. But I digress, what if I told you that parts of Europe were ahead of the trend in marrying later in life. There is a specific part of Europe called The Hajnal Line and it is located on the border of Russia and Italy. This sweet spot of nuptiality data has determined rates of marriage, birth, and mortality for almost the past fifty years.
A man by the name of John Hajnal is the reason for its name sake. In 1965 Hajnal discovered that this area of Europe could be divided and placed into categories of different levels of nuptiality. But what is nuptiality? In simple terms, nuptiality is just a way of measuring who gets married, and how old they were when they did. As well as added forms of marriage such as becoming a widow(er) or getting remarried and also at what age those events occurred. And if you are someone who wants to get married and have kids, let’s hope you DO NOT live west of the Hajnal line because marriage rates and thus fertility we comparatively low.
Women that did marry were married later in life and most remained spinsters, “lifers” to singledom. However, East of the line and pockets of the Mediterranean early marriage and in turn high fertility was prevalent. Does this mean that women who did not married just did not have babies? Or is there something about the East section of the Hajnal line that causes women to be more fertile. It is quite a question. But there is a reason that all of this data stood out in the 1960s as well as today.
“The region’s late marriage pattern has received considerable scholarly attention in part because it appears to be unique; it has not been found in any other part of the world prior to the 20th century.”
Gathering the data that we have just acquired, we have learned that most of the world in the 1960s were getting married early, having children and leading a life like that. And today people do not get married until later in life and do not always have children, if they do it is only one or two children rather than the four or five that would have been expected years earlier. That is why the trend in The Hajnal Line is so puzzling. What made this pocket of the world marry late and not have children? Was it something in the water or was it a sect of culture that had traditional ways that were skewed from the social norm?
A magic pill was invented around 1960. The first oral contraceptive approved by the FDA and this pill allowed women to engage in sex without the worry of getting pregnant either in or out of wedlock. Not only were people having sex outside of marriage, but they were doing so and not having pregnancies as a result because of birth control.
The freedom that let men and women decide whether to have children and when or not at all removed the pressure to get married at such a young age. The tradition was still alive and well as it is in some parts of the world today so there are young marriages that happen but just not as often because they are not done out of need but out of wanting. Birth control has given us time to enjoy a career or relationship before the responsibility of a family is weighted on our shoulders.
With that being said, The Hajnal Line on the East side was filled with royals and wealthier people in general. Royals married young because they had the money and motive to do so. On the west of The Hajnal Line there was less money but there was birth control. So couples that could not afford to get married stayed together but just did not marry until they could afford it and used birth control until they wanted a family which leads to the study results in late marriage and late childbearing if it all. Oh science, you never cease to amaze me.
Low Birth Rates
All of this talk about birth control has me thinking about our population. Our world’s population is at about 7.6 billion individuals. Of that 7.6 billion roughly 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty. It may seem like a bad thing to stop the ability to have children and make it a choice rather than a consequence but with how many people need help to survive and how many starving children there already are it is a godsend to have control over population because we need to control it. There is no solution to poverty yet, but as for now the “replacement method” is a solid way of viewing child bearing. This is a school of thought that you and your partner only have two children. The idea is that these two humans will replace you on the Earth when you die so you are not leaving more than what you started with.
As opposed to a large family that has six children, they are adding to the population which is not bad but is also not helping the whole poverty aspect of things. All in all, birth control is great and low birth rates are not a bad thing. It is not that women are infertile or unable to have children they are just simply choosing not to have them. And now that women have children later in life they are in need of fertility assistance due to advanced maternal age. Again, science makes us possible to pretty much make a child in any circumstance.
Another Thought: Blame Millennials
When in doubt blame the millennials. Isn’t that how is always goes? Just blame the low birth rates on millennials. But actually, that generation is a reason for the lack of babies in our world right now. But it is not their fault. Student debt and the bleak job market are truly to blame.
“The US Census Bureau reported in 2014, 47.6 percent of women ages 15 to 44 were childless.”
More women are getting degrees, which means a delay in childbearing. A focus on career is a wonderful way to spend your twenties rather than popping out a few kids. But due to the economy student debt is the REAL reason women cannot have kids is because they are in crippling debt from college. They feel irresponsible raising a child with little to no money, but society sticks their nose up and says but oh boo you aren’t having kids…how selfish. Yet if they do have kids without the funds to do so then they are seen as irresponsible. What a double standard. It is no wonder that there is a lull in child rearing. Long story short, science has made it so that women can choose when they want to have children.