Center for Family and Society Newsletter – December 2, 2010


By Bryce J. Christensen and William C. Duncan

Social-science fads come and go, but sometimes their effects linger, haunting the present. Recovered-memory syndrome and the 20th century’s eugenics movement, for instance, are now both largely discredited, but the departure of each left in its wake shattered lives and horrific injustices.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the warnings of cataclysm associated with population growth were similarly misguided. The dire predictions from groups such as Planned Parenthood and Zero Population Growth about how unchecked population growth would cause economic and social meltdown now seem highly implausible. Instead, the world is faced with a much likelier scenario – demographic implosion and its attendant social costs.

As demographer Phillip Longman notes: “Birthrates are plummeting throughout the world.” In fact, “among the major industrialized countries, only the United States still comes close to producing enough children to replace its population.” The picture is even direr in other nations: “In many countries, such as Italy and Spain, population momentum has already turned negative. That is to say, the number of women of childbearing age has been declining for decades.”1 In many parts of the world, life for an average child is increasingly devoid of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc. In all parts of the world, the trend is in that same direction.

In fact, in an important recent article, journalist Jonathan V. Last explains that China is reportedly considering changing its infamous one-child policy. He suggests, however, that Chinese officials might find it difficult to effect a turnabout in population patterns. He notes the practical difficulty the Chinese face in trying to reverse their policy by pointing out that in the United States, Americans have increasingly adopted a one-child policy not because of any government decree but because of lifestyle choices. As the subtitle of the article says: “What China imposed on its population, we’re adopting voluntarily.” 2

Utah, by contrast, has resisted some of this decline. It has often been the state with the highest birthrate (though in 2009 it dropped slightly).3 This should not be surprising given the strong religious beliefs of a majority of Utahns. As journalist Stanley Kurtz has noted: “Religious traditionalists tend to have large families (relatively speaking).”4 Even in Utah, though, the birthrate is declining.

So, what are the policy implications for this demographic implosion? Columnist Robert Samuelson explains, “Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation. They have stagnant or shrinking markets and services.”5 An inevitable part of aging is additional dependency on others, and with fewer young people around, the demands of an elderly population may become increasingly difficult to meet.

Are there appropriate ways, then, that Utah can promote child-rich families and reduce incentives for drastic limitations on family size? Examining some of the likely causes of fertility decline may provide an answer to this question. For instance, Samuelson notes that present policies “punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly” while “tax breaks for children are modest.” He quotes demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, who explains that if higher taxes make child-rearing more expensive, “people will think more about having another child.”6 Governments can also work to remove barriers to working from home, since child-care costs are a major expense for parents. College expenses also have an effect on fertility, both in discouraging early childbearing (because of student-loan debt) and also in increasing the costs of being a parent (through costs of tuition for one’s children). The government’s large role in financing student loans has not alleviated this problem and should be fundamentally rethought. Last’s article includes some other policy ideas that could help, including Longman’s proposal of a “Parental Dividend” system “by which a couple’s FICA taxes would be reduced by one-third with the birth of their first child, by two-thirds with the birth of their second, and then eliminated completely with the third (until the youngest child turns 18).”7

Most of the motivation to value children will, of course, remain cultural and religious, and this is as it should be. All of us ought to be grateful for what churches and families, and dedicated parents, do to provide the blessing of posterity to our state and nation. But it wouldn’t hurt for that gratitude to be reflected in public policy.

Co-author Bryce J. Christensen, Ph.D., is associate professor of English at Southern Utah University and adjunct fellow of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society. He is a contributing editor to The Family in America and author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America (Transaction, 2005). He has also published articles on family issues inSociety, The Public Interest, Policy Review, Modern Age, and other journals.

Co-author William C. Duncan, J.D., is director of the Marriage Law Foundation and is the director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society. He formerly served as acting director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and as executive director of the Marriage and Family Law Research Grant at J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was also a visiting professor.


1. Phillip Longman, “Falling Human Fertility and the Future of the Family,” remarks to the World Congress of Families IV, Warsaw, Poland, May 2007.
2. Jonathan V. Last, “America’s One-Child Policy,” Weekly Standard, September 27, 2010.
3. Lee Davidson, “Utah’s Birthrate Highest in the U.S.,” Deseret News, August 19, 2008; Lee Davidson, “Census: Utah is Unique, but Becoming More Like Nation,” Salt Lake Tribune,September 28, 2010.
4. Stanley Kurtz, “Demographics and the Culture War,” Policy Review, February 2005.
5. Robert J. Samuelson, “America’s Parent Trap,” Washington Post, August 9, 2010.
6. Ibid.
7. Last, “America’s One-Child Policy.”



The Utah Pilot Accountability Permit Program – also known as the immigrant accountability bill –introduced this week by Senator Luz Robles is truly the work of many hands from diverse political backgrounds. This proposal is conservative public policy. It is based on reality. It is guided by prudence. And it protects public safety, defends freedom and promotes prosperity in Utah.

During the more than two years that Sutherland has engaged this issue, we have consistently stated that this issue of undocumented immigrants living in Utah says more about us as citizens than it does about them as residents. We’ve also insisted that this matter goes to the heart of our culture – and have asked, “What kind of society do you want to live in?” One full of suspicion and needless divisions where otherwise innocent people are driven underground in our communities, or one that lifts people to the surface of society and welcomes all people of good will?

Because of federal preemption, there is only so much that any state can undertake within our system of federalism. We have never begrudged the state of Arizona the right to act in the face of federal inaction, but we are suggesting a better approach. Utah has a 10th Amendment right to protect our public safety, defend our freedom, and promote our prosperity. Because our predicament is a state issue, this proposal does not deal with immigration policy – that’s not Utah’s prerogative – but it is all about how we approach people who already live here among us.

Any Utahn who is concerned about public safety in the face of undocumented immigration should embrace the Utah Pilot Accountability Permit Program. It creates a functional mechanism for complete accountability and lays down a very simple, but compelling, rule of law inside Utah – it prescribes, in no uncertain terms, that if you’re an undocumented immigrant in Utah, you’ll either proudly carry an accountability card or you won’t. If you do, you’re welcome among us. If you don’t, you’re not welcome among us. It’s that simple.

As conservatives, we refuse to be a part of rounding up otherwise innocent people. And we cannot condone a strategy of “starving them out” or “pushing them into the shadows” by making legitimate employment illegal. Certainly we know that doing nothing is no longer an option. What’s left for us to do is to demand accountability, reach out in dignity, and create workable, functional mechanisms that support the reality of people who simply want to live among us and be a part of our society.

The Utah Pilot Accountability Permit Program is moral, practical and reasonable. It asks something of everyone and yet burdens no one needlessly. We at Sutherland are grateful to have been co-architects of this proposal. The basics are in place within this working draft, and now is the time for the state Legislature to embrace it and begin the perfecting process. Senator Robles should be recognized for all of her hard work, as should so many other unseen hands whose fingerprints are all over this effort.

This bill conforms to the spirit of Governor Herbert’s six principles and to the spirit of the Utah Compact as well. We wholeheartedly endorse this proposal and invite responsible citizens to read the accountability bill. Judge for yourself the wisdom and merits of its policy. If you have constructive suggestions for improving the bill, we welcome your input.

Read the working draft of the proposal at