CLOPPENBURG, Germany Children are scarce in Germany, but not in this farming region of slaughterhouses and churches, where stores close before sunset and there's a baptism every weekend.
Some credit tradition, some God. Some say it's the return of Germans whose families were trapped in the Soviet bloc after World War II. A bit of all these things has made this town the nation's baby machine. But even Cloppenburg's higher-than-average fertility rate will barely sustain its population in coming decades.
Germany had 686,000 births last year, or about half as many as the early 1960s, according to the Office of Federal Statistics. The consequences of that trend are particularly disturbing when compared with the nation's 830,000 deaths in 2005.