Friday, March 11, 2011

As the Economy Tanks, So Does the U.S. Birth Rate

The number of babies born in the United States fell by 2.3 percent in 2009, and the number is continuing to slide. The recent drop in births puts the U.S. total fertility rate below the replacement level of about 2.1 births per woman.

These are the findings that are posted on the Population Reference Bureau website in an informative article by Mary Mederios Kent.

"The recent fall is not surprising given the current economic downturn—couples facing economic uncertainty often postpone having children. Many had predicted fertility decline given high unemployment rates, the home mortgage crisis, and slow economic growth since 2008. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the oil-shock of the 1970s were also periods of record low fertility in the United States.

I think this quote from her article is fascinating, "For the first time in years, the rate of births to unmarried women declined. However, births to married women declined even more, which pushed the percentage of all U.S. births to unmarried mothers to 41, an all-time high." As you have seen me write elsewhere, I am on record as predicting that in 2017, the rate of births to unmarried women will hit the unprecedented level of 50%. That means that 2 million or so babies each year in the U.S. will be born to unmarried women. What Kent's statistic shows is that even though births to the unmarried dipped a bit because of the recession, relative to the larger dip in births to married women, the percent is at an all time high.

"Will fertility bounce back when the economy improves, or will low fertility become the norm for Americans, as it has for Canadians and Europeans? Will couples eventually have the babies they postponed during the recession? For now, we can expect to see continued declines over the near term."