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Maybe this is easier to grasp by percentages. In 1950, senior citizens (age 60-plus) were 8 percent of the world population and newbies (age 0-4) were 13 percent. By 2050, seniors will be almost 22 percent and newbies less than 7 percent.

This means fewer people of reproductive age, and if young adults only have one or two children like their parents and grandparents, the result will be a shrinking global population.

What’s wrong with that, maybe you ask. Fewer people mean fewer carbon footprints. Fewer cars on the Beltway. More towel space at the beach.

It also means fewer schools and more nursing homes. It means jobs and offices filled with old and elderly workers. No Leisure World for you, 60-somethings. Retirement will start at 75.

Young people are the engines of economies. They produce and consume. They hustle. They are the “human capital” of expanding economies, especially when they are trained in new technologies and modern skills, says Gary Becker, a Nobel Laureate in economics.

Young people also are innovators, which makes them most likely to come up with solutions to poverty, disease and pollution.

It’s time to revive the idea that “having children is part of contributing to society,” says Barry McLerran, producer of “Demographic Winter.” If too many people don’t have children or only have one child, “we’ve got a huge, huge problem on the horizon,” he says.

So which is it? Are children the problem or the solution? This grown-up conversation needs to be continued.

Cheryl Wetzstein’s On the Family appears Tuesdays and Sundays. Send e-mail to cwetzstein@washington