United States’ Fertility Rate at an All Time Low

According to recent report by the US’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the general fertility rate in the United States has reached an all-time low.

The general fertility rate of 2018 represented the lowest number of births in 32 years (since 1986) and displayed a 2% decline in births among women ages 15 to 44. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the birth rate is declining—2018 was the fourth consecutive year of birth decline—but the implications of a continued slump mean more than just a stagnating population.

Demographers and economists believe that the fertility rate of a country is closely tied to their economic growth. The United States has been experiencing a years-long growth streak in the economy. This means that these experts had expected the birth rates to at least remain stable, if not rise.

A decline in birth rates indicates an aging population: if this pattern continues, the social structure of the United States will change dramatically to have an older population and fewer younger workers to sustain many of our key social systems.

So what are the reasons for the decline in birth rates?

Well, it’s hard to say, and the answer is probably a lot more complicated than anyone can comprehend at this point. Some experts believe that the decline in general fertility rate is an indicator of an increase in pessimism about the future of the United States in the eyes of young people today. The initial decline in birth rates began around 2008, the time of the Great Recession. After a short spike in 2012, the negative sentiment around childbearing continued through the current political turmoil and heightened difficulties that parents (especially in the workplace) face today. The cultural shift for women to delay both marriage and childbearing also plays a major role.

Today, the United States Total Fertility Rates lies around 1.72 children per woman, far below the Census Bureau’s “replacement rate” (meaning able to sustain economic growth) of 2.1 children per woman. Luckily, the country’s current policies around immigration allow for the addition of one international migrant every 34 seconds. In order to sustain (and even increase) our birth rate in the near future, we are more likely  going to become more reliant on immigration and immigration policies.

 

References

Chappell, Bill. “U.S. Births Fell To A 32-Year Low In 2018; CDC Says Birthrate Is In Record Slump.” NPR, NPR, 15 May 2019. 

Howard, Jacqueline. “US Fertility Rate Falls to ‘All-Time Low,’ CDC Says.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 July 2019.