Mainstream corporate media have been all over a recent U.S. Census Bureau report noting that Americans identifying as white have declined in numbers for the first time on record, while the Hispanic and Asian populations experienced significant growth in the past decade. Though this has, of course, provoked many predictable commentaries on race in America (because we haven’t had enough of those in the last 18 months), there is also much debate regarding the confluence of factors that are affecting population growth and demographics in this country. And those factors, I would argue, are of far more interest than endless palavers over racial diversity.
The first of those factors is COVID-19, though not the pandemic “baby bust” highlighted by demographers. Rather, I would propose that COVID-19 has underscored the remarkably divergent ways Americans think about children. Consider, for example, a recent op-ed by Stacy Torres, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California at San Francisco who frequently travels to New York for work. In this op-ed, Torres, who has Sjögren’s syndrome, shames her sister—a mother of five—for not getting the vaccine. But not just that.
“I don’t know when or if I’ll see my sister again,” she mourns. “Even if we can forgive each other over our recent rift, vaccine refusal may condemn us to a lifetime of social distance, given my autoimmune risks.” Yet Torres makes another telling admission: “It’s one of the many reasons I decided not to have children: Because of my disease, I’m tired all the time.” But not so tired, apparently, that she can’t be a professor and regularly travel across the country, or write op-eds.