The New Red Diaper Babies

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The New Red Diaper Babies

Newpaper editorial

By: David Brooks

Date: December 7, 2004

Source: "The New Red-Diaper Babies." December 7, 2004 〈〉 (accessed June 22, 2006).

About the Author: David Brooks has been writing a weekly column for The New York Times since 2003. He is also a senior editor for The Weekly Standard, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly and Newsweek. His media credits include commentary on National Public Radio and CNN's "Late Edition." He has authored two books, "Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There" (2000) and "On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense" (2004). He has described himself as a political conservative, stating that he approaches his journalistic and political commentary from that political perspective.


Natalists, from the Latin word for birth, believe that it is their duty to procreate and to have as many children as possible. They also believe that their primary duties are to home and family, and that raising their children to the best of their abilities is the driving force in their lives. In countries with economic problems or very small populations, natalism serves a significant purpose: bolstering population size and providing much-needed workers. The youth of developing, or largely agrarian (farming) countries, by working with or for their families, are typically paid less than unrelated (hired) help, while reducing the overall unemployment rate. Some of the more developed countries, such as Italy and France, that are facing critical decreases in population growth, have offered married couples pro-natalist financial incentives in the form of tax credits and fees paid for live births—although the latter movement was the recipient of negative commentary by the media. Much of Western Europe, many countries in Latin America, and numerous larger cities across the United States have reported significantly decreased birth rates. It is becoming progressively more common for people to marry later in life and to have fewer children, particularly among two-career couples and those who live in larger or more expensive cities (related to cost of living and real estate prices).

The natalist trend in the United States has broad demographic markers: those with larger families tend to migrate to the most rapidly growing suburbs and exurbs, primarily located across the Great Plains and central regions of the United States. Those with larger, or increasing families also tend to marry young, to begin having children within a short period of time after marriage, to be politically and fiscally conservative, to attend church or religious services regularly, to have a "stay at home mother/parent," and to seek out living areas based on child-friendliness. They tend to move to areas where housing is of increased value and affordability, where crime is low and neighborhoods are considered "safe" for children to play in. Some of those who refer to themselves as natalists state that their religious values dictate family size, citing Biblical passages commanding people to "be fruitful and multiply." For those families, quality of life is reported to be of paramount importance, along with the welfare of the nuclear family. Decisions about where to live are largely dictated by familial, rather than occupational and economic, considerations.


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Based upon United States Census data, areas of the country with rapidly growing population size and affordable housing tend to be populated more by those who vote Republican rather than by those who identify themselves as Democrats. Geographic areas in which people identify themselves as politically and fiscally conservative tend to have a larger proportion of owned than rented homes, married rather than single people, and larger (more than two children) rather than smaller families, based on reported population statistics. Those "booming" areas tend to be away from coastal regions of the United States, as it is more possible for suburban areas to continue to expand in areas that are not locked by geography, such as those bordered by water or high mountains. States with the fastest growing, most geographically spread out, suburbs have higher percentages of registered Republicans than registered Democrats. There is a strong positive correlation between ability to utilize existing open land to expand areas of home construction and the cost of housing, and a concomitant positive correlation between lower cost housing in non-urban areas and registered Republican voters.

Families with more than two children are a relative rarity in the developed, particularly the Western, world. According to the United States Census for the year 2000, heterosexual couples that choose to procreate produce an average of 1.87 children. Families with six or more children are considered an extreme rarity in the United States in the twenty-first century; they account for less than 6% of the total reporting population. The rate for family size is similar in Spain, Sweden, Italy, France, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Australia (fewer than two children); Canada has reported that less than 1% of all families have more than five children. Much of the research done on larger families appears to have been concerned with family planning and contraception issues, as well as with reasons people cite for increased family size. There is data indicating that those who choose to have larger families may be subject to social pressure and judgments from others. As a result, they may feel pressure to relocate to areas with families that look similar to theirs (in terms of number of children or family make-up) in order to avoid perceptions of social stigma. Clusters of families with similar demographics may afford social support, shared value systems and, possibly, religious or spiritual beliefs, and familiarity—and, therefore, comfort—with exigencies of daily life. Social support, and a sense of "belongingness" or community are routinely reported to social science researchers as being integral to engendering feelings of comfort and happiness with home location or neighborhood. In relatively homogeneous communities, that is, those with many families with similar make up in terms of family size, housing costs, and income and expense levels, there are often also similar political values. Families with large numbers of children relative to income and debt ratios have little choice but to be fiscally conservative. Those who are fiscally conservative tend to follow suit with their political leanings and voting preferences.



Bock, Gisela, and Pat Thane, eds. Maternity and Gender Policies: Women and the Rise of the European Welfare States. London: Routledge, 1991.

Cheal, David. New Poverty: Families in Postmodern Society. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1996.

Gauthier, Anne Helene. The State and the Family: A Comparative Analysis of Family Policies in Industrialized Countries. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.

Statistics New Zealand. Demographic Trends 2003. Wellington, New Zealand: Statistics New Zealand, 2003.


Clyde, A. "Is Big Beautiful?" Family Life (March/April 1997): 46-47.

Downey, Doug B. "Number of Siblings and Intellectual Development." The American Psychologist 56(6/7) (2001): 497-504.

Downey, Doug B. "When Bigger Is Not Better: Family Size, Parental Resources, and Children's Educational Performance." American Sociological Review 60 (5) (1995): 746-762.

Web sites

The Christian Science Monitor. "Life with a Supersized Family." September 19, 2001 〈〉 (accessed June 23, 2006).

United States Census Bureau. "U. S. Census 2000." March 17, 2006 〈〉 (accessed June 23, 2006).

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The New Red Diaper Babies

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