Most people who listen to this podcast will know that places like Japan, Italy, and Germany are in the midst of a demographic crisis. The trouble is that people in those countries are not having enough children to replace those of any age who are dying. This means the population of Japan et al. is declining (albeit slowly). But more importantly it means that the "age structure" of countries not at "replacement rate" is headed in the wrong direction: the number of young people is declining and the number of old people is rising. That's bad because the young people produce all the stuff and also support the old people. Unless the young people become more productive, there's going to be less stuff for everyone, but particularly for old people.
According to Jonathan V. Last this troubling scenario is precisely what the United States will face if present demographic trends continue. In his fascinating What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Crisis (Encounter Books, 2013), Last crunches the numbers and suggests that the U.S. population, even factoring in immigration, will soon fall below "replacement rate." The problem is not, Last says, that Americans don't want children. They do. It's that having children has become more and more expensive. Americans think they can't afford children. What can we do about that? Listen in and find out.