Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/81

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77
THE DIMINISHING BIRTH RATE

rate mentioned by a man of such extensive medical and statistical experience as Dr. John S. Billings "is the diffusion of information with regard to the subject of generation by means of popular and school treatises on physiology and hygiene, which diffusion began between thirty and forty years ago. Girls of twenty years of age at the present day know much more about anatomy and physiology than did their grandmothers at the same age, and the married women are much better informed as to the means by which the number of children may be limited than were those of thirty years ago.[1]"

In a footnote of an article on "The Declining Birth Rate," Professor John B. Phillips says:

There is certainly developing there (in Germany) the desire to reduce the size of the family. The large number of pamphlets treating of methods of preventing conception which have recently appeared and are offered for sale at the bookstores is an indication of the desire for smaller families. There is no law against the public sale of such literature in Germany. In the window of one large bookstore I counted five such pamphlets conspicuously displayed. The price of most of them was below fifty cents.[2]

Another fact which corroborates the position of the economist merits attention, namely, the birth rate is usually low at the points where we should expect. For example, a low birth rate commonly coheres with a low death rate. This holds not only between the different portions of the population of the same country, but also between the populations of different countries. Where sanitary conditions are good and the knowledge of preventive medicine most widely diffused, where the spirit of caution is most prevalent and the numberless little attentions that economize life are most unstintedly bestowed, both the birth rate and the death rate are low. On the other hand, where the reverse of these conditions obtain, both the birth rate and the death rate are high. Apparently, the same forethought safeguards both. Again, so long as the American people were mainly a nation of frontiersmen, the birth rate was high. For on the frontier the man without a wife was at an economic disadvantage and children much more than repaid for their bringing up by the time they became of age. "Under these circumstances early marriages and large families were both dictated by prudence. But with the passing of the frontier and the massing of men in cities where a wife and children are often a handicap, and where the opportunities for employment open to the unmarried woman are especially attractive, the postponement of marriage and the small family become increasingly common. Under existing conditions, the highly emotional who lack self control and who are frequently without property or devoid of ambition usually marry young and have numerous children, while those in whom the deliberative

  1. Forum, Vol. 15, 1893, p. 475.
  2. University of Colorado Studies, March, 1910, p. 161.