Hannah’s Children

08 Apr 2024
6:30 pm


Vincent P. Walter Boardroom in Curley Hall, The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20064

The Women Quietly Defying the Birth Dearth

Join the IHE and our Faculty Scholar Catherine R. Pakaluk for the launch of Dr. Pakaluk’s new book: Hannah’s Children: The Women Quietly Defying the Birth Dearth.

Watch the recording here.

In the midst of a historic “birth dearth,” why do some five percent of American women choose to defy the demographic norm by bearing five or more children? Hannah’s Children is a compelling portrait of these overlooked but fascinating mothers who, like the biblical Hannah, see their children as their purpose, their contribution, and their greatest blessing.

Dr. Pakaluk, herself the mother of eight, traveled across the United States and interviewed fifty-five college-educated women who were raising five or more children. Through open-ended questions, she sought to understand who these women are, why and when they chose to have a large family, and what this choice means for them, their families, and the nation.

Hannah’s Children is more than interesting stories of extraordinary women. It presents information that is urgently relevant for the future of American prosperity. Many countries have experimented with aggressively pro-natalist public policies, and all of them have failed. Pakaluk finds that the quantitative methods to which the social sciences limit themselves overlook important questions of meaning and identity in their inquiries into fertility rates. Her book is a pathbreaking foray into questions of purpose, religion, transcendence, healing, and growth — questions that ought to inform economic inquiry in the future.

Praise for Hannah’s Children:

“Economics usually doesn’t do much to help us understand our human condition. Hannah’s Children is the rare exception: it successfully focuses on an essential choice that is offered to almost all people, to be concretely open to the affirmation of the gift of life. This choice is unlike most other choices, and Hannah’s Children understands this choice in profound ways that situate it at the heart of any possible resolution to the problem that is modernity.”
— Richard Spady, Senior Research Fellow, Nuffield College, Oxford University; Research Professor, Department of Economics, Johns Hopkins University

“A beautiful celebration of motherhood showcasing the rich complexity — social, economic, and personal — of human love. Catherine Pakaluk makes the compelling case for having a large family in a modern context of adult autonomy and hyperindividualism. Informed by a multidisciplinary study canvasing economics, history, sociology, and philosophy, Hannah’s Children joins the slim ranks of other groundbreaking ethnographic studies on marriage, maternity, and demography. Within the narratives of human natality, Pakaluk reveals the possibility of greater gain within self-sacrifice, advantage in accepted opportunity costs, and expansion of self within the gestation, growth, and gift of other persons.”
— Janice T. Chik Breidenbach, PhD, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Ave Maria University; Member of the Aquinas Institute, Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford; Senior Affiliate, Penn Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, University of Pennsylvania


  • Catherine Ruth Pakaluk
    Catherine Ruth Pakaluk
    IHE Scholar & Associate Professor, The Catholic University of America

    Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, Ph.D. in Economics, is an Associate Professor of Economics at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America. Her primary areas of research include economics of education and religion, family studies and demography, Catholic Social Thought, and political economy.

    Dr. Pakaluk is the author of “Hannah’s Children: The Women Quietly Defying the Birth Dearth” (2024, Regnery) and the 2015 recipient of the Acton Institute’s Novak Award, a prize given for “significant contributions to the study of the relationship between religion and economic liberty.”

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