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The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What To Do About It Hardcover – April 13, 2004

3.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Phillip Longman is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of numerous articles and books on demographics and public policy. Formerly a senior writer and editor at US News & World Report, he has written for such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (April 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465050506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465050505
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,635,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Muehlenberg VINE VOICE on August 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This volume examines the implication of global fertility decline, and offers some solutions to turn things around.

Longman begins by laying out the data. Today global fertility rates are half what they were in 1972.

Europe of course leads the way, with precariously low levels. Italy for example has just 1.2 children per woman. Spain is doing even worse, with 1.15 children. These two nations are experiencing the lowest fertility rates ever seen in recorded history.

All together, 59 nations making up 44 per cent of the world's population, are not producing enough children to avoid population decline.

What are the implications of such a demographic time bomb? Simply stated, we are rapidly becoming an aging society, with ever shrinking pools of young people. This has very real repercussions on many fronts. But a major worry of governments is how we are going to pay for this growing pool of the elderly, with these declining fertility rates.

As but one example, in Europe today there are 35 people of pensionable age for every 100 people of working age. If present trends continue, by 2050 there will be 75 pensioners for every 100 workers.

Longman asks why this demographic trend is unfolding before our eyes. One major factor is that it simply costs a huge amount of money to raise a child today. The increasing number of working women, and women in higher education, is another factor. So too are such reasons as declining male wages, fear of divorce, rising taxes, the absence of grandparents as child carers, contraception use and abortion.

The economic component is certainly a leading cause of childlessness.
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Format: Hardcover
Books about the relationship between the well-being of the human condition and population growth have been controversial since Thomas Malthus. More contemporaneously, Ben Wattenberg¡¦s ¡§The Birth Dearth: What Happens When Free Nations Stop Having Babies?¡¨ drew caustic comments with its proposition that fewer babies have adverse as well as beneficial effects on society and its institutions.

I wish that people could do a better job of rising above their personal values to critically examine books like The Empty Cradle ¡V like the reviewer who criticizes the book because it ¡§promotes the idea that women staying home is the solution for falling birthrates.¡¨ The book does no such thing.

Among other valuable contributions to our thinking, The Empty Cradle reveals that 59 nations representing 44% of the world¡¦s population are headed for population contraction and that this is hastening the aging of societies worldwide, many of which have virtually no infrastructure in place to meet the needs of coming vast waves of elderly, and others whose infrastructures are woefully inadequate.

The upshot is, the health and ƒnwell being of the world economy stands to be challenged as never before by the first population contraction in modern times. We would ignore Longman¡¦s work at great peril to social, cultural and economic institutions ¡V and one might argue even the environment, for the shortage of resources to deal with the problems he describes will almost certainly seriously stress an already over stressed environment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provides an excellent overview of natalism, and the natalist perspective.

All of the 1 star ratings are people disagreeing with the subjective values the book describes. I'm not sure that the fact that one *disagrees* with the book is a good justification for rating it poorly. The book does exactly what it sets out to do.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first became curious about "The Empty Cradle" when I was reading about Europe's demographic decline as a student of geopolitics in my last years at the University of Melbourne.

Fearing the threat of a radically conservative religious takeover, I was curious as to what should be done, and I found "The Empty Cradle" by Phillip Longman and was curious. After buying the book, I have never been disappointed and have recommended this work to a great many people whom I know or have known.

Phillip Longman, as not only this book but also his articles at the New America Foundation website demonstrate, is a brilliant writer who manages to transcend the boundaries of left and right without succumbing to predictable "wishy washy" centrism. In every section of "The Empty Cradle" he looks very clearly at every possible alternative and is remarkably effective at understanding how possible answers to declining birth rates are likely to be correct or incorrect. His illustration of essential issues like the present state of affairs in the most critically affected nations, the skyrocketing cost of children, the problems an aging society will face, and possible remedies that will avoid the problem of a state ruled by religious law and lack of freedom for women stands as masterful. He is, in fact, firmly principled and resolute in a way people seeking to bridge problematic political divides which both him and myself understand to relate to the issues mentioned above.

Similarly, Longman's viewpoint (like many conservatives) of the utility of home-based economics actually resonates well with me even though I have never married or even dated - probably because so much of what I have learned was never taught to me at school.
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