Michelle Duggar Sees Nothing Wasteful About Having 19 Kids—And Why Should She?

Today on Jezebel, Erin Gloria Ryan mocks Michelle Duggar’s assertion that there’s nothing wasteful about having 19 kids. For perhaps the first time ever, I’m on Duggar’s side. If nobody else is having many babies anymore—and we’re not—then it’s pretty okay for her to have a whole bunch. We’ve got much bigger sustainability and population problems to worry about than the occasional mega-family.

In a web interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, here’s what Duggar—of reality show “19 Kids and Counting” fame—had to say about her and husband Jim Bob’s brood:

Well, first off, the idea of overpopulation is not accurate because, really, the entire population of the world, if they were stood shoulder to shoulder, could fit in the city limits of Jacksonville. So if you realize that aspect of it, we realize we’re not anywhere near being overpopulated.

That is not the part I agree with. That is, in fact, one of the most asinine arguments dismissing overpopulation that I’ve ever heard. And, honestly, the rest of her answer doesn’t get much more coherent: She agrees with Mother Theresa that saying there are too many babies “is like saying there are too many flowers;” believes that more babies bring more “joy” and “purpose” to the world; and says that other countries are begging the United States to “please let their people know that they need to have more children.”

But as woo-woo as her reasoning might be, the gist of Duggar’s answer—that it’s not wasteful or selfish for her to have a big family; that overpopulation is no longer an issue in most countries—is true.

First: The Duggar family. This whole thing starts because someone asks Duggar what kind of environmental impact her ‘super-large family’ is having on the world? Absolutely none. I guarantee it; in the grand scheme of global population, one 19-child family means squat. And if you think about it, one 19-child household probably consumes less resources than six three-child households, because things can be reused, and the amount of extra space/energy per kid in a family decreases exponentially (i.e., the more kids you have, the less each one costs, in terms of money and resources).

If everybody started having mega-families, would we be in trouble? Of course. But that’s NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. The overall number of children born in the U.S. has dropped 8 percent since it’s peak, in 2007. The average fertility rate is currently 2.05 children per family, down from 2.48 in 1970, 3.65 in 1960, 3.42 in 1910 and 7.04 in 1800 (for the 20th century, it peaked around 1956). Population growth in the U.S. is at its slowest growth rate since the Great Depression, according to the U.S. Census. I don’t think we’re in any danger of super-large families becoming anything close to a norm again.

As for overpopulation: Countries around the world are having major issues because of the coming “gray tsunami.” In the U.S., one in eight Americans is currently 65 or older; by 2050, one in 10 Americans is projected to be over 90. That is not a good thing, even if you take away the issues of Social Security and Medicare sustainability. Italy and Germany have seen population decreases recently, and Japan and Spain will soon, according to the World Bank. Asian countries are also being stung by aging populations and declining fertility rates.

Death rates are outnumbering birth rates in some places. Countries are in crisis. I’m not advocating more people start having large families. I’m not arguing that any person should have any more kids than they want to (even if that number is zero). But I also think it’s just absurd to say the very small number of very large U.S. families are somehow driving us to overpopulation and environmental decline.

Share This Post:
    • self help

      The problem I have with the Duggars is the fact that they are completely turning a blind eye to the health implications of their decisions.

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        For themselves or their children?

    • Eileen

      The United States isn’t causing overpopulation (in fact, it’s mainly through immigrants that we’re even maintaining). And a family that supports its kids and allows them to grow into healthy adults definitely isn’t the problem – the problem is families with more children than they want or can support. I’m with Mrs. Duggar on this one.

      • Nancy

        “And a family that supports its kids and allows them to grow into healthy adults definitely isn’t the problem – the problem is families with more children than they want or can support”

        Totally agree!

    • Renee

      ” has dropped 8 percent since it’s peak”

      its peak. ITS.

      I can’t believe you people get paid to write when you don’t know the difference between contractions and the possessive.

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        Darling, you try quickly writing multiple blog posts per day and not once ever messing up a possessive. There’s a difference between *not knowing the difference* and *making an occasional mistake.*

      • Amy

        I know it’s upsetting to be called out on your mistakes, but it’s even more upsetting (and alienating to your followers) to read such a condescending and defensive response. You could have easily said, “hey thanks for pointing out the error, I’ll go correct it”. As a devoted reader myself, it’s disheartening to hear you admit you would rather chuck out multiple blog posts per day as opposed to thoughtfully taking the time to submit them correctly.

        FYI maybe you only make occasional mistakes, but it’s rare to not see spelling errors on Blisstree and its sister sites.

      • Dawn

        Renee & Amy, there is an easy solution. Just don’t read it if it bothers you so much.

      • Amy

        @ Dawn
        Or the editors and writers could attempt to eliminate the issues? I enjoy these sites and I don’t want to stop reading them. There is a comment section for a reason and we should be encouraged to share our criticisms and opinions with the author without being advised to simply “stop reading.”

        It is the mark of a mature mind to use such criticism as an opportunity for self analysis and, if necessary, improvement.

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        Look, I’m sorry if my flippant response offended anybody; was just trying to be light-hearted. It’s frustrating to write something where I have taken the time to ‘thoughtfully’ craft a post, tried to build a coherent argument or spark a conversation or inform readers or *something,* and then have commenters say, “GOD WHY DOES ANYONE PAY YOU TO WRITE YOU MISPLACED ONE APOSTROPHE,” okay? That doesn’t mean I’d rather churn out ‘as much crap as possible;’ it means I’d like people to realize that this is a daily blog. The nature of it is that we have to write quickly, and we don’t have the benefit of copy-editors like traditional reporters do, and sometimes we make mistakes! If you point them out to us in a nice or neutral way, we’ll thank you and gladly correct them.

    • Kimberly

      It’s a strain on the planet. Have they never heard of Zero Population Growth? It’s irresponsible and now, quite dangerous for her to be breeding. How is it irresponsible? In this day and age, 19 children are not needed to run the homestead. The death rate is not as high as it was a century ago, so children don’t die off like they used to. Farming life is not solely based on putting the kids to work (free labour). Really, just because you CAN have 19 kids, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. The planet is quite close, if not already there, to the bursting point. Waste, pollution, food, water, air….all factors in WHY we should be more oriented to ZPG. We are not rabbits. I think after 5, their family line was preserved.

    • Cernfinite

      But what about the implications of the offspring of her children? If we assume they too ascribe to the Quiverfull Movement objectives and also have multiple children, after just a few generations, we are talking about a rather huge impact. And I am not just referring to natural resources. Overpopulation, although currently at a stalemate, is a real issue. But there is also the issue of genetic diversity.

      Plus, although she might just be one person and her family just one family, they are representative of a larger movement of families (Quiverfull Movement) who ascribe to the thinking that larger families will sustain their values and agenda.

      Genetic Diversity prevents unfavored, and often dangerous genetic mutations that are often passed to and between blood relatives.

      Sources: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/overpopulation/index.html

      I am sorry but Mrs. Duggars facts aren’t backed by scientific and proven evidence. Although, I am interested in seeing her sources and why she believes that overpopulation isn’t a problem. The effects of overpopulation aren’t limited to just how many physical persons currently habit in area. It is based on consumption vs. population totals. Sure, they wouldn’t make an impact if the population growth was stagnant and resource consumption was limited.But that isn’t what is happening. In fact, populations are consuming larger and larger amounts of resources.

      http://atlas.aaas.org/index.php?part=2

      I understand that the article is mainly composed of Mrs. Duggars opinions but I really do think you should back your article up with more varying sources related to the actual facts giving your readers an unbiased look at what you are trying to present here. It all seems rather biased.

    • tellaL

      what an incredibly, ignorant, insane woman. I bet she smells bad. if she wants to be strange… go ahead. but, she doesn’t know anything she is trying to talk about. do they believe in dentists?