By Leslie Schreiber
For a while the United States, unlike many European countries, did not suffer from a birth rate decline. That’s changed. People like to blame millennials for everything from their over-reliance on social media to their “participation trophy” attitudes and now, it would appear that they’re to blame for a “precipitous” drop in American births over the past 10 years. According to a study that appeared in the New York Times,
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reflecting births as of the year ending in September 2017, shows the total fertility rate at 1.77 lifetime births per woman, down 3.8 percent since 2015, and down 16.4 percent since its most recent peak at 2.12 in 2007. (The replacement rate in developed countries is around 2.1.)
The fertility rate has increased for women over 40, and the generation of women finishing up their childbearing years now had more children than their mothers did, but that isn’t likely to be true for their daughters. The key factors driving down the birthrate are not mysterious: The pregnancy rate among young women is falling, and has been for years.
How do researchers explain for this declining birth rate among 20- and 30-somethings? For one, this age cohort is delaying marriage and focusing on careers first. But even births among unmarried folks are declining, as well, as single women are taking advantage of contraception to avoid unintended pregnancy. Moreover, because of the shift in socioeconomic trends, even those millennial women who would like to have children decide to be child-free because they often cannot afford fertility treatments and the costs of raising a child are prohibitive.
There is much to be said for reducing humanity’s carbon footprint by having fewer children, but there are worries, as well:
But very real problems could develop from lower fertility that many might not see coming, like difficulty meeting Social Security obligations, caring for older people and maintaining economic growth.
Stay tuned. There will, no doubt, be further studies on this
Stone, L., “American Fertility is Falling Short of What Women Want,” The New York Times (Feb. 13, 2018), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/upshot/american-fertility-is-falling-short-of-what-women-want.html (last visited Feb. 15, 2018).