A Growing Number of Adults Don't Want Children & Some of the Reasons Why
Except for a small blip last year, births have been declining in the United States for decades and we have consistently been below replacement level [the rate need needed to replace the current population] since 2007. Currently, America's fertility rate is approximately 1.7 births per female, which is below the replacement level of 2.1 that is required for the U.S. population not to decrease without increases in immigration.
And, it appears that the decline in birth rates may continue for some time. A recent study published in Scientific Reports found that more than 20% of adults surveyed in Michigan don't want any children at all.
Futurity.org: “We found that 21.6% of adults, or about 1.7 million people, in Michigan do not want children and therefore are ‘childfree.’ That’s more than the population of Michigan’s nine largest cities,” says Zachary Neal, associate professor in Michigan State University’s psychology department and coauthor of the study."
The statistics just tell us part of the story and perhaps the more important question is why birth rates are declining. There appear to be a number of factors according to researchers and it all begins with the ability to choose when to have children. Birth control is easy to obtain for most individuals and sex education has improved markedly, Adults know how to prevent pregnancy and many are deciding to forego children. But why?
1. Young couples no longer view reproduction as a biological imperative; quite the contrary. They realize that the world is overpopulated and that many of the environmental, social, and economic problems we face are exacerbated by unrestrained population growth.
2. For decades we have waged campaigns against teen pregnancy and such efforts have been far more successful than anyone could have hoped.
NBC: "Declines in fertility have been concentrated among younger Americans. Teen fertility has declined by more than 75 percent in recent decades, all the way down to 15.3 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 last year, from 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991."
3. More women are putting off childbearing to get a higher education.
Illuminate: "According to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research organization, at the close of the 2021 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students in America, an all-time high, and men only 40.5%. That's a dramatic change from the late 1960s when about 58% of college students were men. Today, many more women are making the decision to pursue higher education while the percentage of men going off to college has remained flat."
4. Women of all ages can now have meaningful careers that provide fulfilling lives without children or with smaller families. A study conducted in 2018 found that 34% of single women aged 30 to 45 said that establishing a career was their top priority compared to just 8% that said having children topped their list. Many of these women will eventually have children, but because they begin later in life, they will have fewer.
5. Fewer adults are getting married.
Illuminate: "The National Center of Health Statistics [HCHS] issued a new report on US marriage rates ... and it showed that fewer Americans are getting married, dropping to its lowest level since 1900. In 2018 there were just 6.5 new marriages per 1,000 Americans, down from 6.9 per 1000 in 2017 and down from its peak of 16.4 in 1946, right after WWII ended. The rate at which we get married has varied since 1946, but never approaching today's low."
6. Children are expensive and people tend to have fewer children during times of economic uncertainty.
The Conversation: "economic uncertainty affects fertility trends. Economists estimate that a family will spend on average $233,610 per child before they are 18 years old. Financial upheaval during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 also contributed to declining birth rates, while the COVID-19 pandemic saw a 4% decline in fertility rates in 2020, the lowest since 1979."
Moreover, young couples in the United States don't feel that policymakers at the state and federal levels have been responsive to the economic burden of childrearing. Many potential mothers are deterred by the lack of affordable child care, the absence of universal health care, and inadequate paid parental leave policies. For young couples struggling with sky-high college loan debt and few affordable housing options the decision to put off childbearing probably seems like the responsible option.
Our current decline in births will have consequences for America's growth and prosperity unless we start addressing the issue today. Already, some demographers in the United States see an impending crisis because it means that there will be a smaller number of educated young people entering the workforce, less entrepreneurship, and fewer workers to support Social Security and Medicare for our aging population.
Legislators can and should address some of the economic barriers to childbearing as many European nations have with varying levels of success. However, implementing such policies would be very difficult in America's current political climate. President Joe Biden's recent student loan forgiveness plan has drawn opposition from almost every Republican legislator, and initiatives to provide child care and housing subsidies for young parents stand little chance of success in Congress.
America does have another option to address declining birth rates and we are fortunate compared to other industrialized nations with falling fertility rates. Some of the most talented and industrious people in the world want to move here and we could make some tweaks to our immigration laws to ensure that our overall population remains steady or rises a bit in the coming years. That too will be difficult politically, but even those that bemoan the cultural ramifications of immigration will eventually recognize the need to increase the working-age population in order to salvage the economy.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content