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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/560

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556
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

the significant lesson taught is seen in the possibilities which even a lower birth rate may yield. The continued triumph of knowledge and humaneness draws comfort from the recent history of other European nations. A comparison of birth rates, death rates and excess of births between the period 1861-80 and 1885-96 shows that in nearly every important European country birth rates have declined. Yet no alarming tendency to depopulation has manifested itself, because the decreasing death rates permit a greater net increase of lives. Consequently the rate of increase was augmented during this period in Hungary, Prussia, Austria, Italy, Holland and Belgium, but declined slightly in England, France and Scandinavia. Some of these nations have a mortality which is even now considered excessive and which, if proper measures are inaugurated, can be considerably reduced. Hungary with a birth rate in recent years of 40.4 had a smaller percentage of increase than Sweden whose rate was only 27.1, while the Russian mortality was higher than England's birth rate and but little below that of Germany.

Several observations may be made in respect to the foregoing facts:

First and foremost: The physiological advantage of contributing to a growing population by means of lowering the death rate rather than by increasing the rate of birth. Mental anguish, physical and economic cost, would thus be reduced to a minimum. It is the method of enlightened civilization. The burden of our mothers is not lightly borne, let them enjoy the fruits of their suffering.

Second: The marvelous reduction in the former rate of infant mortality indicates what social reform may accomplish, and what a saving of lives may follow.

Third: The differences between rural and urban death rates suggest the character of the environment needed for the increased healthfulness of cities.

Fourth: The contrasting conditions disclosed in single American cities and the gratifying results of sanitary measures, milk inspection, and advancing intelligence pave the way for a growing hopefulness.

Realizing the importance of the principles which our vital statistics establish, society can insist more strenuously upon preventive reforms. It can reduce the waste of infant lives, and conserve our potential population. Let us ascertain whether our population is sufficiently fecund by giving every new-born babe a fair opportunity for life. Whether 'race suicide' will then have a national aspect, society will be better able to judge. Certain classes are indeed chargeable with a low birth rate, but for the masses the more important problem is a diminishing infant mortality. When the best of society's efforts in this direction have been realized, then a solid basis for subsequent reasoning concerning the probable future of our race will have been established.