Linda & Richard Eyre: Basic assumptions now under fire

By Linda & Richard Eyre, For the Deseret News

Published: Mon, Aug. 25, 2014, 5:00 a.m. MDT

 The Eyres share an excerpt from their new book, \

The Eyres share an excerpt from their new book, "The Turning."


Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from "The Turning: Why the State of the Family Matters, and What the World Can Do About It," by Linda and Richard Eyre. The book will be released at the end of August.

A generation ago, no one would have questioned the premise that the family is the basic unit of society. Today, it is questioned from many sides. In his ominously titled landmark work "The Rise of Post Familialism: Humanity’s Future," demographer Joel Kotkin says, “Today, in the high-income world and even in some developing countries, there is a shift to a new social model. Increasingly, family no longer serves as the central, organizing feature of society ... (and) as Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz has pointed out, the shift to an increasingly childless society creates ‘self-reinforcing mechanisms’ that make childlessness, singleness or one-child families increasingly prominent.”

Kotkin points out the ramifications of this shift, some of them political: “A society that is increasingly single and childless is likely to be more concerned with serving current needs than addressing the future-oriented requirements of children. Since older people vote more than younger ones, and children have no say at all, political power could shift toward non-childbearing people.”

David Brooks, of The New York Times, adds, “In a 2011 survey, a majority of Taiwanese women under 50 said they did not want children. Fertility rates in Brazil have dropped from 4.3 babies per woman 35 years ago to 1.9 babies today. These are all stunningly fast cultural and demographic shifts. The world is moving in the same basic direction, from societies oriented around the two-parent family to cafeteria societies with many options.”

Ryan Streeter (“Marriage Rates and the Libertarian-Libertine Assault on the American Dream,” Jan. 2, 2012), a policy analyst, puts it this way: “Family — getting married, and then having kids — used to be woven together with other threads of the American Dream. Not so anymore.”

It is this societal shift that should motivate right-thinking people everywhere to fight even harder to re-enshrine marriage and to promote the “natural family” way of life. Even for those who do not equate marriage with morality, there are adequate economic and emotional reasons to fight hard against continuing family decline.

Perhaps the most obvious of these is the simple fact that societies with declining birthrates that fail to adequately replace one generation with another inevitably face a skewed “dependency ratio” where ever fewer active workers support more and more retirees. The result is an inverted pyramid of aging people supported by a dwindling number of younger people.

Governments that once worried
 about population control are now
 panicked by their less-than-replacement birthrates, and countries ranging from Russia to France to Singapore now offer cash premiums for babies, even bonuses that jump substantially upward for the third and fourth child.

In the United States, while people over 65 represented 9 percent of the total population in 1960, it is 16 percent today and will reach 25 percent in 2030, corresponding with a steep decline in the number of younger workers. And people over 65 receive seven times more in federal spending than children under 18 (Linda A. Jacobsen, Mary Kent, Marlene Lee and Mark Mather, “Population Bulletin: America’s Aging Population,” Population Reference Bureau, February 2011: 5. 
Eduardo Porter, “Maybe We’re Not Robbing the Cradle,” The New York Times, April 10, 2005).

Anyone hoping for a strong economy must pay attention to studies that consistently show that married adults with children do better in terms of their incomes, their savings and their preparation for retirement than their single counterparts. After all, the term "economics" is taken from the Greek "oikos" for “home,” and "nomia" for “management.” As economist Nick Schulz says in his aptly titled "Home Economics," “The collapse of the intact family is one of the most significant economic facts of our time.”

The bottom line is that the economic numbers add up much better in a society where marriage and families are strong than in those where they are not. Declining birthrates, marriage rates, and increasing singlehood and childlessness are ominous signs. 
And if the economic arguments aren’t enough, the emotional statistics should be.
 The National Marriage Project from the University of Virginia offers evidence that married people, with or without children, have significantly less depression than singles; and 57 percent of married women with children felt their lives had an important purpose, while only 40 percent of women without children felt the same.

The decline, demise and disappearance of functioning families is, simply put, the biggest crisis facing the developed world today.

To learn more about the book and the cause it represents, please go to The-Turning.com. The Eyres are donating all royalties from the book to charity.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or at valuesparenting.com, and follow Linda’s blog at eyrealm.blogspot.com.

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1. Selznik
Saint George, UT,
Aug. 25, 2014

Lots of talk in this article but no solutions offered. Are the authors suggesting that government impose these beliefs on the populace? Censor movies and tv shows? Institute a theocracy? Providing a good example by honoring the family in our individual groups is the only Constitutional way to influence others. People can then see the happiness and strength that comes from strong families. Railing against the bad choices of others is non productive. Those you are trying to persuade will only tune you out.

2. zabivka
Orem, UT,
Aug. 25, 2014

I think it should also be noted that while an ever-declining birth rate is difficult to maintain, due to the pressure it puts on the smaller working population to support a larger group of retirees, the inverse is also just as problematic. When you have a birth rate this is overpopulating the planet, you end up with a huge battle for resources. I, for one--in this technological age of automation--would much rather face the issue of taking care of additional elderly than face a lack of basic necessities due to irresponsible child-bearing.

The healthiest alternative would be to stick to a birth rate that is close to the replacement level, without any sharp increases or decreases, allowing flexibility for society to adjust without creating huge problems of either overpopulation or underpopulation.

3. Wilf 55
Aug. 25, 2014

Some truth in the article, but also simplicity and generalizations, which are then translated into absurd extremes, as in the comment by John Charity Spring.

Matters are much more complex than presented and are different in many parts of the world. The future depends on issues of ecology, sustainability, climate change, air quality, food and water supply, and more. People who really care about the future of families and children focus on such issues, rather than making people believe it's only a question of making more babies in "intact families".

4. Ohio-LDS
Aug. 25, 2014

Selnick said "lots of talk in this article but no solutions offered."

Here's a possible solution. If democratic societies are not as attuned to future generations as they should be, perhaps the most direct way to correct that imbalance would be to give children voting representation in their government. Granted, children are not sophisticated enough to exercise their own vote. But parents are sophisticated and can be trusted to represent their children's interests better than anyone else in society. So why not give custodial parents extra voting rights for their children? As one example, in a family with mom + dad + 3 kids under 18, mom and dad would each exercise their own vote + 1.5 votes for their children, for a total of 5 votes.

5. JoeCapitalist2
Orem, UT,
Aug. 25, 2014

Selznick: "Are the authors suggesting that government impose these beliefs on the populace?"

While I think it would be great if our government, the media, and Hollywood encouraged the formation and continuation of the family, I don't think that will happen anytime soon.

It would be a big improvement if they would just stop trying to tear down families through raunchy movies, mocking of religious beliefs, and welfare programs that discourage marriage, family, and work.