Concern is growing as recent statistics report that the birth rate has been declining for the past seven years. It is also at the lowest level it has been in thirty years.
According to population data recently released by the CDC (the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), on average, a woman can be expected to have 1.76 children in her lifetime. This is lower than the number needed to replace the current generation (2.1 children per woman).
The problem with a low birth rate is that there won’t be anyone to take over the workforce or to gain enough tax revenue to keep the economy stable. Other countries with low birth rates (such as France and Japan) have pro-family policies, to encourage couples to have children.
One reason could be because mothers are having children a lot later on now. Teen pregnancies are also reduced in number. Experts believe that those who are planning on having children later will mean the rate may change again.
Donna Strobino, P.H.D, is a professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, she believes, “It may not be all doom and gloom. I think it may stabilize once women who have been postponing pregnancy have the births they are planning to have.”
The average woman used to have a child at the age of 24 in the late 1980s, which increased to 26.3 years old by 2016. If women are leaving having children when they are older, this means that they have less time to have a second. This is called ‘tempo effect’ and essentially means that leaving it ’till later as a nation, can mean a 25% dip in predicted fertility rates based upon current births by age.
Despite an increase in pregnancies of women in their 30s and 40s, the numbers do not make up for the dip in the numbers of pregnancies in younger women.
Millennials are having fewer children, and this could be for a number of reasons. Another possible reason for the dip is financial worries or the changing landscape and culture of dating. It also may just be a lifestyle choice – more women could simply be choosing not to have children.
The decline in teenage pregnancies is believed to be due to more education
“What this is is a trend of women becoming more educated and more mature. I’m not sure that’s bad,” Strobino explained. As most pregnancies are now among women aged 25 to 30 years of age.
As fertility clinics are helping women aged 40-44 to have children, and birth rates among these women are rising. So it’s not all bad news!
William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, expects fertility rates to increase as the economy of the country increases. He argues that there are other developed countries with a lower birth rate, and enough babies are being born to meet replacement. So while the rate is lower than usual, there is no cause for alarm.
Fertility rates are dropping, and experts can’t agree on whether they will continue to do so or not. However, the likelihood is that this is not a cause for concern. America has one of the world’s strongest economies, and while culture may change with fewer children being born, overall, it is not likely to pose a problem in terms of growth. It will certainly be interesting to see over the coming years, whether the rate will increase again, and if not, how the country will change and adapt as a whole.
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