I applaud Ellen Goodman for pointing out in her column "Birth Dearth?" {op-ed, Aug. 4} some of the fallacies, as well as the racist and sexist undertones, that in part represent the views of those who fear a U.S. birth dearth.

Ben Wattenberg, the author of "The Birth Dearth," scolds middle- and upper-middle-class women for not having enough children. These selfish women, in his view, are primarily responsible for the declining U.S. population and for loss of U.S. economic and geopolitical power.

The fact is, the U.S. population is not declining -- it is growing by more than 2 million people per year, which makes us the world's fastest growing industrialized nation. It would seem that, in a world of finite natural resources and increasing environmental degradation, American women who exercise control over their childbearing represent an enlightened world view, not a selfish one, as the birth dearth theorists claim.


Silver Spring

Ellen Goodman's otherwise interesting and perceptive column about my new book "The Birth Dearth" says that I come "perilously close to suggesting that the right (i.e., white) sort of people aren't having enough children." She says she hears in "The Birth Dearth" an "echo" of an earlier concern about "racial suicide" from people who opposed immigration to America.

I believe there is no such echo, and I do not believe I am perilously close, or close at all, to suggesting that low fertility is a "white" problem.

I state quite clearly that low fertility is "a straight class issue," and that "if we are seeking change, we should know who the prime target audience is: the culprit is the middle class -- white, black, Asian and Hispanic." Indeed, I point out that black middle-class women have somewhat lower fertility rates than white middle-class women. I also note that the total fertility rates for all blacks have fallen sharply to only 2.2 children per woman, about replacement level, and about where I think national rates ought to be.

Miss Goodman is correct about bringing up immigration as an aspect of changing ethnic and racial composition in America: it is the most important factor. Today, about 80 percent of the legal immigrants to the United States are from places other than the predominantly white nations of Europe. In "The Birth Dearth," I favor a larger amount of legal immigration.

In the context of "racial suicide," Miss Goodman also mentions that my book may be subtly guilty of American "chauvinism." Again, I demur. I talk about whether Western culture is likely to flourish if the people of all the Western democracies continue to have fertility rates well below that required for mere population replacement. One of the nations I prominently and specifically include is Japan.


Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute