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US Fertility Rate Drops Again, Lowest Level Since 1978

The fertility rate, which measures how many babies women are having, also indicates if the population is replacing itself. A rate of 2.1 is seen by demographers to mean that the population is stable. In 2017 the rate fell to 1.76 births per woman, down 3% from the rate of 1.82 in 2016. According to a report released yesterday by the National Centre for Health Statistics, that is “the lowest fertility rate since 1978. The birthrate also fell in 2017 to a 30-year low. The 3.85 million US births in 2017 were the fewest since 1987.

Looking more closely at the report, there is a lot of good news. The decline is driven by fewer births among teenage women; the birth rate for teenagers was down a by 7%, meaning the teen birthrate is down 55% from 2007. A statistician at the Center, Brady Hamilton, told The Wall Street Journal that he was “absolutely astounded at the continuing decline in teen birthrates.” That decline is closely tied to better sex education, increased access to birth control, and a decrease in sexual activity.

The only group to see birth rates rise was women in their early 40s, and reflects a desire by American women under 40 to delay childbearing. Whether its because of economic concerns or because they have greater access to birth control and simply prefer to wait, women in their 20s and 30s continue to put off having children. As women become more educated and find fulfilling careers they are less likely to have children early in life. Its also happening across Europe and in other technologically advanced nations like Japan.

If there is a down-side to the report it's that the decline in births means that there will be fewer younger workers to pay into Social Security and Medicare which will strain those programs just as baby boomers are retiring. And it will mean fewer workers for business in the future and a greater reliance on immigrants to fill positions in the workforce. But that, of course, will have cultural ramifications as some Americans will resist allowing expanded immigration.

By: Don Lam & Curated Content


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