Baby Bust Continues: Fertility Rate Hits Record 32-Year Low

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Posted: May 16, 2019 10:04 AM
Baby Bust Continues: Fertility Rate Hits Record 32-Year Low

The number of babies born in the US has declined in 10 of the last 11 years as the fertility rate slumps.

The Vital Statistics report on 2018 Births shows the baby bust continues.

Key Numbers

  • The provisional number of births for the United States in 2018 was 3,788,235, down 2% from 2017 and the lowest number of births in 32 years.
  • The general fertility rate was 59.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down 2% from 2017 and another record low for the United States.
  • The total fertility rate declined 2% to 1,728.0 births per 1,000 women in 2018, another record low for the nation.
  • Birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women under 35, but rose for women in their late 30s and early 40s.
  • The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 was down 7% in 2018 to 17.4 births per 1,000 women; rates declined for both younger (aged 15–17) and older (aged 18–19) teenagers.

The Wall Street Journal comments U.S. Births Fall to Lowest Level Since 1980s.

With the latest decline, births in the U.S. have fallen in 10 of the last 11 years since peaking in 2007, just before the recession. Many demographers believed that births would rebound as the economy recovered, but that trend hasn’t materialized.

Instead, experts say the continuing declines appear to be rooted in several trends, including teenagers and unmarried women having fewer babies, lower Hispanic fertility rates and the rise in women obtaining college degrees.

The decline has important implications for the U.S. economy and workforce. The total fertility rate—an estimate of the number of babies a woman would have over her lifetime—has generally remained below the “replacement” level of 2.1 since 1971. A fertility rate falling farther below replacement level means that, without enough immigrants, the U.S. could see population declines and a workforce too small to support a growing segment of retirees.

Youths Drive Decline

Abortion

Abortion doesn’t appear to be responsible for the birth decline. The Guttmacher Institute found that both the total number and the overall rate of abortions have fallen to their lowest levels since around the time that Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973. Guttmacher advocates for reproductive rights but its figures are considered reliable by abortion opponents and supporters alike.

Factors

The article cites birth control, education, and waiting longer.

Hope

Demographers hope that as the large millennial cohort, which this year will be between age 23 and 38, moves through their 30s, the birthrate will begin rising again.

But why?

Symptoms

The demographers confuse causes with symptoms.

The causes of the birthrate decline are not birth control or education. Both are symptoms of an attitude change coupled with economic reality.

Initial Cause

  1. Women decided they wanted to enter the workforce. This major attitude change was the initial driving force.
  2. Women needed to enter the work for for economic reasons. Thanks to Fed inflationary policies, it took two incomes to buy things.

The number of births rose from the early 1970s to the mid-2000s, but that masks the true trend as shown in the second chart. Birth rates have been declining since the early 1960s.

Contraceptives were an enabler, but an attitude change coupled with economic reality was the true driver.

Debt and Misplaced Hope

Demographers hope for a millennial rebound. I asked Why?

It's amusing they cannot see the obvious: Student debt and attitudes about debt. Some label student debt a bubble.

Here is a chain of Tweets from yesterday.

Stagnation of Its Own Making

Promises Gone Bust

Debt, more specifically attitudes about debt, is the number one reason that faith in millennials to have more kids is misplaced.

Millennials were told to get an education at any cost and it would work out.

It didn't and won't. Kids saddled with student debt have delayed home purchases, marriage, and family formation.

On top of that, the Fed's inflationary tactics helped boomers with assets but severely punished millennials who cannot afford homes.

Attitudes, Attitudes, Attitudes

Even attitudes towards car ownership have changed. Once again it's the cost of ownership.

Unlike their boomer parents, millennials do not trust debt, at least to the same degree. That is an attitude change the Fed is fighting and the demographers don't even see.