Population Matters

What if we were all Duggars?

September 1st, 2009

Today Michelle Duggar, the co-star of the cable TV program 18 Kids and Counting, announced that she is pregnant with her nineteenth child. To Michelle Duggar this pregnancy is a blessing, but only because she lives in a country with one of the best health care systems in the world.  It’s a much different story in the developing world.

In June, UNFPA featured a story about a woman named Ayupo, living in Uganda, who died in childbirth giving birth to her fifth child. The nearest obstetrician or doctor was 20 miles away, so Ayupo used a traditional birth attendant, but when complications arose she was unable to reach a hospital in time.  With the death of Ayupo, her newborn’s life was at risk because she has no mother to feed her and unsafe water to drink.  Ayupo’s four other children would also suffer because in Africa, it is the mother who feeds, protects, and gets her children educated.

This case is not unusual, in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy and childbirth is 1 in 22.  In the United States, where Michelle Duggar lives, this risk is only 1 in 4,800. Women in developing countries have large families because they have no other choices available to them; they lack the education, healthcare, and the social status to say no to their husbands and use contraceptives.

If you are curious as to what this 19th member of the Duggar family could mean to U.S. population, the Huffington Post gives some statistics on what would happen in 100-200 years if the Duggars and their descendants all had childen at this rate for five generations:

  • One in every hundred people in America would be a Duggar
  • There would almost be enough Duggars to have one in every square mile of America.
  • If all the Duggars earned $30,000 annually, they would collect $96 billion a year before taxes, enough to bailout AIG and have enough left to buy Marvel Comics three times over.
  • There would be more Duggars than Muslims in America.
  • There would be more Duggars than residents of America’s 21 least populous states.

What’s important to remember about these numbers is that a child born in the United States has a much larger carbon and ecological footprint than a child born in Uganda.  Americans on average consume resources–including fossil fuels–at a rate more than five times faster than the rest of the world.  That’s something that the Duggars might want to consider before 19 Kids and Counting becomes 20 Kids and Counting.

Posted By Emily Pontarelli, Program Associate

One Response to “What if we were all Duggars?”

  1. Emilia Says:

    I think one of the reasons we’re so fascinated by the Duggars is the same reason we’re fascinated by the Hensel twins or Aceves family: they’re rare. Birth rates are dropping or have dropped, not only in practically every industrialized country but in much of the developing world as well. A case in point in the industrialized world: I have only one biological child, and I’ve scheduled a tubal ligation (if I ever want more children, I’ll adopt). So the fact is that we aren’t all going to become Duggars.

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