“It would seem, based on the records of population growth, that concern for overpopulation is an effect, not a cause, of falling fertility rates,” says Joseph Moore in The Appeal of Childlessness; an informative and short article worth reading. I’d never heard, or had forgotten, that Augustan Rome had a problem with declining fertility.

“It was next proposed to relax the Papia Poppaea law, which Augustus in his old age had passed subsequently to the Julian statutes, for yet further enforcing the penalties on celibacy and for enriching the exchequer. And yet, marriages and the rearing of children did not become more frequent, so powerful were the attractions of a childless state.” — Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome

I knew human populations had declined at various times, but thought those had been the result not of choice, but of plague, war, and famine; or maybe lead poising, in Imperial Rome.