For all of human history, family has underpinned the rise, and decline, of nations. This may also prove true for the United States, as demographics, economics and policies divide the nation into what may be seen as child-friendly and increasingly child-free zones.
Where California falls in this division also may tell us much about our state’s future. Indeed, in his semi-triumphalist budget statement, our 74-year-old governor acknowledged California’s rapid aging as one of the more looming threats for our still fiscally challenged state.
Gov. Jerry Brown, unsurprisingly, did not acknowledge or address the many factors driving the aging trend that include his own favored policy prescriptions. Whatever their intent, the usual “progressive” basket of policies have had regressive results: a tougher time for both the poor and middle class, and a set of density-oriented policies that are likely to drive up housing prices, particularly for the single-family houses largely preferred by people with children.
These policies have helped turn California into a state that looks less Sunbelt and more like the long-aging centers of the Northeast and the Midwest. It also mirrors declines in fertility and marriage rates in the most-rapidly aging parts of Europe and east Asia. These regions are shifting toward what Chapman University’s recent report, in cooperation with the Civil Service College of Singapore, characterized as post-familialism. Released this past fall in Singapore, the report will be presented in Orange County this week.