Why the Falling U.S. Birth Rates Are So Troubling
We’re becoming Europe. At least that’s what a long line of birth rate figures seems to being telling us. And that’s bad news for the future of the country.
New numbers released by the U.S. government Tuesday show record low birth rates in 2011: The general fertility rate (63.2 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years old) was the lowest ever recorded; the birth rate for teenagers 15 to 19 declined; birth rates for women aged 20 to 24 hit a record low; rates for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women dipped. Some birth rates remained unchanged, like that of women in their late 40s. Only women aged 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 are more likely to have babies now than in the past.
Those data are part of a broader post-crash trend. Every year since 2007, when the number of births in the U.S. hit 4.3 million, Americans have brought fewer babies into the world each year. Much of that had to do with the recession: Americans apparently decided that they couldn’t afford to have as many kids in an unstable economy, even if they were married.
Such declines are typical during economic crises. During the Great Depression, birth rates dropped significantly, and the same thing happened during the stagnation of the 1970s. “We’ve seen this previously throughout the last 100 years,” says Mark Mather, a demographer for Population Reference Bureau. “Fertility rates drop in periods of economic stress.”