On choosing life

On Choosing Life by Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman  

The national birth rate, long in decline, reached an all-time low this year. Different theories 

have been floated to explain the trend, but none have been more revealing than the answers 

young people give themselves. In a 2018 New York Times survey of Americans aged twenty to 

45, only 42 percent of respondents said they wanted children. According to an international 

report released this May, just 39 percent of millennials listed having kids as one of their life 

ambitions, in last place behind traveling the world, getting rich, buying a home and making a 

positive impact. 

Its reasonable to wonder whether its fair to bring children into a deteriorating world, and yet 

its nevertheless hard to shake the suspicion that, for many of the people inveighing against the 

morality of child-rearing, the prospect of a life without children appears to be less a sacrifice 

than a relief. For a generation that came of age during the financial crisis and now faces 

unprecedented levels of student debt and the threat of ongoing job-market disruption, financial 

insecurity may play a part in their reluctance. But neither money nor climate change were main 

factors in the Times survey. Rather, the most common reason cited for not having children was 

wanting leisure time. Second most common: havent found a partner. 

For most of human history, having children was only barely a choice. Childlessness was 

understood not as an option to consider but a terrible misfortune, or an extraordinary sacrifice. 

It made no difference that you might die in childbirth, might not be able to provide for your 

family, that they might suffer, that you might lose them. But why is that? It is undeniable that 

offspring performed various political, socioeconomic and religious functions in peoples lives. 

Yet it also seems that peoples desire for children, for bringing forth new life in ones image, 

could never be fully reduced to any such explanation or aggregate thereof. That at some point 

in life one would start a family, have children of ones own, was as inevitable as growing older. 

That one would bring forth life was just about as certain as death. It was not simply that 

children used to be a biological or economic or political necessity; as far as most people were 

concerned, they were a necessary part of a life well lived. 

Now that children are something we can freely choose, it is all the more important that we try 

to understand the reasons behind our ambivalence. Are we hesitant to bring new life into the 

world because we are more morally upright than previous generations, or because we are more 

selfish? One thing seems relatively clear: our caution reveals something more than concern for 

the next generation. It seems to point, above all, to an anxiety about those who are already 

here and to whom we already feel responsible: ourselves.

by Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman. Then write a well-developed essay that does the following:

1. Summarize the authors’ attitude toward their subject matter in the passage.

2. Explain to what extent you agree or disagree with the authors’ ideas. Support your response with relevant facts and/or examples from your own experiences, knowledge, and things you have read or learned.