Taken in a certain light, a nation’s fertility rate is seen an important metric of the country’s basic well-being as well as the quality of life of its citizens. When the fertility rate is exceedingly too low, it may be an indicator that there are long-term problems that are often related to the health of young adults, who act as a driving force for the country’s economy. Conversely, a nation with an exceedingly high birthrate might also experience a drag on their resources.
In the United States, the recent trend in the fertility rate data casts a curious shadow, when you consider that the fertility rate has hit a 30-year low! This essentially means that American families are not having enough babies throughout their productive years to replace the parents.
Historical Trends In The Fertility Rate
To understand this trend a little better, we need to take a closer look at the history of the US fertility rate. Throughout the early part of the 20th Century, it hovered around 3.0. During World War Two and throughout the 1940’s the total fertility rate dropped to around 2.1. This decline may have been related to several factors, including the later days of the Great Depression, followed by husbands and fathers being deployed, as well as the fact that an increasing number of women joined the workforce.
Following World War Two, we see the well-known “Baby Boom” where the fertility rate rose to a new peak of 3.7. After that, it saw a slow yet steady decline until it stabilized in the 1970s.
Starting in 2008 the fertility rate began to steadily decrease. This is most likely linked to the economic concerns of the “Great Recession.” As of 2017 the United States fertility rate for women between the ages 15 to 44, has stayed at an all-time low of 1.76.
Factors Affecting The Fertility Rate
When we take a closer look at recent fertility rate data, we see that only South Dakota and Utah reported a total fertility rate that was above replacement levels. It’s also worth noting that the gap between the highest fertility rate in South Dakota and the lowest in Washington, D.C. was a staggering 57%!
It’s also worth bearing in mind that racial data can also be factored into the fertility rate. In this, we see that Utah reported the highest total fertility rate amongst Non-Hispanic Caucasian women. In contrast, Maine had the highest total fertility rate for Non-Hispanic black women. At the same time, the highest total fertility rate for Hispanic women was in Alabama, and the lowest was found in Vermont.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also indicate that as the United States fertility rate has been declining, that an increasing number of women are having their first child later in life. This can also factor into the total number of children that woman has in her lifetime.
There are several factors that might contribute to the historic decline in the United States fertility rate. This can including things like:
- Economic uncertainty
- Outstanding student loan debt
- A lack of paid family leave policies
- The high cost of childcare in many areas
Low Fertility Rates In The Future
Experts in the field were not originally shocked by a decline in fertility numbers at the start of the Great Recession. Yet as economic conditions have improved, the fertility rate still remains low and has continued to decrease over time. This is contrary to the expectation that fertility rates would improve as the strain of the recession eased.
This interesting trend may have other factors afoot, including how people feel about the long-term economic prosperity of the United States as well as other global entities. However, there are likely to be even more factors going on that influences how people feel about their lives.
Concerns over job security in the United States, labor conditions, and a large number of people who are essentially under-employed can lead to worries over the ability to pay their existing bills. This can be a major concern for a couple choosing to have children or more than one child.
These factors can all contribute to families choosing to have kids until later in life. Unfortunately, this is also a period in life where the likelihood of fertility problems increases. Meaning that for some women they don’t achieve financial stability until a time in their life when the percentage chance of conception is lower.
Source – ABC