Old Woman With Walking Stick

It’s not what we’re doing that may signal disaster, for western developed so-called “democratic” societies, most of all.

It’s what we’re not doing: bringing the next generations of humankind into the world.

Birth rates have dropped below death rates across the globe, with Europe and parts of Asia among the most affected regions. But China and the U.S. are also in population decline, and even Africa and Central and South America are just years behind the overall depopulation trend.

What does depopulation mean for the future?

“No society in history has been known to come out of that spiral,” filmmaker Stephen Shaw says, as reported recently by (“New ‘Birthgap’ film shows how explosion in childlessness is driving population collapse,” 26 May 2023.)

In other words, societies which stop demographically expanding or maintaining their populations, once caught in negative birth-to-death rate conditions, do not reverse the trend.

Shaw recently debuted a documentary, Birthgap, which interviews experts from many parts of the world, looking for answers as to why the world, over the modern era of the past 50 years, has, to varying degrees, shifted into demographic decline.

Many of those experts weren’t able to provide definitive answers, Shaw noted.

As a data analyst, Shaw studied the numbers himself, and found that beginning in the early 1970s, an explosion of childlessness, and not changes in family size, set a widespread depopulation trend in motion.

For instance, one in twenty women in Japan in 1974 were childless. But Shaw found that this ratio increased to one in four by 1977, according to Lifesitenews. By 1990 it had increased to one in three, a figure that was still true in 2020.

In Italy, another country known for its severe demographic decline, one in thirty women were childless in Italy in 1974. But according to Shaw, the rate of childlessness there also skyrocketed by 1977, reaching one in five women, and it reached one in three by 1990.

Social, Economic and Technological Factors Have All Played A Part

Shaw’s film notably doesn’t substantially focus on birth control to explain the modern depopulation trend.

But a Lifesitenews analysis said Shaw’s reasoning there had some obvious flaws. 

In her opinion piece on Birthgap, author Emily Mangiaracina says Shaw underestimates the effects of modern use of birth control.  

By not addressing fertility statistics prior to 1970, Shaw ignores falling fertility rates in some regions that had already started in the 1960s, shortly after the birth control pill was introduced in nations including the U.S., the U.K., and Australia.

But economic and social upheavals going back further than modern use of birth control, also set the stage.

In France, for example, which dominated the world culturally in the latter 19th century up until the start of WWI, women having fewer children had a cultural influence beyond its borders.

Economic and social calamities account for marked periods of birthrate decline. But they also have correlated with longer trends, which indicate lasting generational impacts.

In the case of France, the period of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars created conditions which may well have affected the subsequent “French fashion” of sophisticated, decadent culture which deemphasized the bourgeois value of having families.

The Industrial Revolution, with its urbanization of populations and agricultural advances, has had complicated effects with regard to human population.

It’s widely acknowledged that advances in agricultural fertilizers and farming techniques, allowed an overall explosion in world population in the 20th century.

That explosion was most pronounced in third-world regions, which benefited from the food exports of developing and developed powerhouses like the U.S. and Europe.

Meanwhile, the move of populations to urban centers and factory work and white collar jobs, brought with it changes in family sizes. The manual labor of children on family farms had no comparable corollary in urban environments, where children were more likely to be regulated via child labor and education requirements, from the late 1800s on. 

There were other social changes, including increased opportunities for entertainment, social and cultural activities, and so on.

Birth rates in industrialized Western nations dropped even as they produced goods and services in abundance for themselves, and for export to the world.

By the 1960’s, the industrialized West was unmistakably trending not just from a “decrease in population increase,” but toward outright depopulation:

Source UN Our World in Data website.

Even the UN, which forecasts an overall world population increase over the next 50 years, predicts that by the end of the century, the effects of rapidly accelerating depopulation will overtake the world:


“One of the big lessons from the demographic history of countries is that periods of rapid population growth are temporary. For many countries, the demographic transition has already ended, and as the global fertility rate has now halved we know that the world as a whole is approaching the end of rapid population growth.

“This visualization presents an overview of the global demographic transition, based on estimates from the 2022 data release from the UN Population Division.”

The above graph clearly shows the marked flux in annual growth rate dating from the 1960s, that has become a precipitous freefall from 1990 onward.

What’s the state of the U.S. currently?

According to Census Bureau data released on 25 May, the median U.S. population has trended significantly older since 2000, with the proportion of people 65 and older increasing by more than a third between 2010 and 2020, while that of children under the age of 5 decreased.

Fewer children were born from 2010 to 2020, compared to the previous 10 years. Meanwhile, the populous Baby Boom generation are now squarely in their elderly years.

As noted by, over the past decade, the median age in the U.S. increased from 37.2 to 38.8. (“Baby Boomers Push Nation’s Median Age to Almost 39 as Fewer Children Are Born,” 28 May 2023.)

That spells fewer in young generations contributing to future jobs and productivity, greater strains on Social Security and social welfare systems, and higher medical costs related to the ailments that correlate with aging, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and depression.

There are other important social and economic consequences to an aging population, including fewer working-age adults to support older people through Social Security and Medicare contributions.

But it’s not just one country or region facing these prospects. And again, Shaw’s observation that no society in history has successfully emerged intact from a population collapse, means that geopolitically, and in other crucial respects, 2100 may not resemble the world as it is today at all.

For related reading, see:



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