Concerning Dalton Conley’s book The Pecking Order, on which I commented on March 30: I’ve read the whole thing now.

In the book, he makes no arguments at all concerning tax policy.

He does demonstrate that large families are bad for middle children, all else being equal. And that’s important information that is little known. Most parents seem to think singletons are at risk of unhappy childhoods, when they actually tend to thrive, as Bill McKibben has argued. It’s the big broods that bring neglect and discontent.

  • Astonishingly, though, Conley barely even mention the huge shift away from large families that has swept North America in recent decades.

    In 1976, an astonishing 36 percent of American women at the end of their reproductive years (40-44 years of age) had given birth four or more times. These were the baby-boom moms, the mothers of the generation that will continue to dominate North American demographics well into this century.

    By 2000, fewer than 11 percent of American women in their early forties had given birth so many times. These women were born at the peak of the baby boom in the late 1950s, and grew up in the center of the boomer generation. Yet nearly a fifth of them never had children at all. And more than half of them had only one or two children.

    The trends evident in these figures continue. Most women born in the sixties and seventies are on track to complete their families at one or two children. The share or couples who are going to three or beyond keeps dwindling. In the Northwest states, the small-family norm is more advanced than in United States overall; in BC, it’s ahead of the Northwest states.

    This is one of the least-noted pieces of good news in Cascadia.