According to a recent CDC report, United States births have fallen for four years in a row and are now at the lowest they’ve been in 32 years, reported U.S. News. In 2018, in particular, fewer babies were born than in 1986.
Despite an upward spike in 2014, yearly birth rates have fallen consistently in the following four years, ending 2018 with 3.79 million births.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that between 2017 and 2018, births fell across all major ethnic groups. The sharpest decline was for Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native groups, where births fell by three percent. White and black women saw a 2 percent drop while Hispanic women saw a 1 percent decline.
Additionally, the center reported that the country’s total fertility rate fell to a record low for the nation. The number of births needed to replace an entire generation is 2,100 births per 1,000 women. However, in 2018, this figure reached just 1,728 per 1,000.
Specifically between 2017 and 2018, the birth rate fell from 60.3 per 1,000 to 59.0. Interestingly, the largest drop in birth rate was seen among women in the 15-19 age range, which saw a decline of 7 percent. The only age group that experienced an increase in births was women in their late 30s and early 40s.
According to researchers, “The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement for the last decade.”
There are several factors that could be contributing to the decline in birth rate, most notably a society still feeling the effects of the Great Recession that hit in 2008. A Pew analysis published earlier in 2019 defined the effects of the Great Recession on motherhood, writes U.S. News.
“The Great Recession intensified this shift toward later motherhood, which has been driven in the longer term by increases in educational attainment and women’s labor force participation, as well as delays in marriage.”
A 2018 survey found that the most common reason that people have held off on having children is due to the high expenses of child care.
Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, talked to The New York Times about the declining birth rates, emphasizing that on a positive note, the country is getting better at preventing unwanted teen pregnancies. However, a decreasing birth rate in non-teenage women could be more worrisome.
“This is an important change, but it is not one that is making us extraordinary. It is making us more like other rich countries. It is making us more normal, in a sense. This is what Canada looks like; this is what Western Europe looks like.”
While a decline in birth rate isn’t necessarily all bad, it could be worrisome if it continues to fall. If the birth rate cannot replace the aging population, it can potentially put a strain on the country’s resources and cause labor shortages.