Women are having fewer kids, and demographers don't know why


U.S. fertility is not recovering from the financial crisis — and demographers aren’t sure why.

The fertility rate fell to a record low 62.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2013, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The total number of births, at 3.96 million, inched up by a mere 4,000 from 2012, the first increase since the financial crisis. But the total fertility rate, or TFR, the average number of children a woman would have during her child-bearing years, fell to just 1.86, the lowest rate in 27 years. TFR is considered the best metric of fertility. A TFR of 2.1 represents a stable population, with children replacing parents as they die off.

Demographers expected the fertility rate to fall during recession, as financially strapped families put off childbearing. But what has surprised some demographers is both the depth of the decline and the fact that fertility has continued to drop even over the course of the country’s five years of slow but steady recovery. The rate has fallen steadily each year since 2007, when it stood at 2.1 percent.

The result: There would have been at least 1.3 million more births during the recession and recovery if fertility had reMained at 2007 levels, calculated Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.

Johnson noted that the excess of births over deaths is now the lowest it has been in 35 years. There were more deaths than births in a third of U.S. counties last year. “More people died than were born in Maine for the second year in a row and West Virginia again had more deaths than births as it has for a number of years,” Johnson wrote.

Why the decline in fertility has persisted even as the worst effects of the labor market have abated is “an excellent question that no one knows the answer to,” according to Johnson.

One foreseen factor behind the dropoff in childbearing is the rapid decline in Hispanic-American fertility.

For several decades, high Hispanic childbearing has been driving U.S. population growth. White fertility has been under the 2.1 replacement rate for decades, and ranged from 1.7 to 1.9 in the 2000s. The TFR for black Americans first fell below 2.1 in the early 2000s.

But the number of children per Hispanic-American woman has plummeted from just under three in 1990 and 2.7 as recently as 2008 to 2.19 in 2012, just above the replacement rate.

That decline has been mirrored in other Hispanic countries. Mexico’s TFR has fallen precipitously, from 6.7 in 1970 to 2.2 in 2012, according to the World Bank. A similar decline has taken place in El Salvador, and to a lesser extent Honduras and Guatemala, all three prominent countries of origin for American Hispanics.





But part of the post-recession drop-off in U.S. fertility was not as anticipated, namely, the dramatic shift in fertility from younger to older women.

While birth rates for women in their teens and early 20s have fallen to record lows, the corresponding rates for women in their 30s and 40s have continued to rise, uninterrupted, throughout the recession. The average age of women at their first birth has risen for four straight decades.

Mark Mather, an associate vice president at the Population Reference Bureau, explained that the shift to older childbearing largely reflects young adults waiting to get married. That entails fewer children overall, Mather noted, because “it does get more difficult as people wait until they’re older to start families.”

The big question is whether fertility rates for young women will pick up as the economy gathers strength. “Uncertainty still kind of rules the day,” said Sam Sturgeon, the president of Demographic Intelligence, a firm that provides demographic forecasts for businesses.

Sturgeon’s own expectation is that young women will return to childbearing once the economy strengthens, because “there’s a very strong two-child norm in the U.S., and we haven’t seen any evidence that women want fewer.” Nevertheless, he said, he wouldn’t be surprised if fertility rates for teens and women in their 20s did not pick back up.

It’s less likely that the U.S. will return to above-replacement fertility, a benchmark that most advanced economies have fallen well below in recent decades. Sturgeon pointed out that the U.S. only reached a TFR above 2.1 in 2006 and 2007, at the height of the housing bubble years.

The consequences of America’s recession baby bust are already significant. “We’re getting to the point where it’s dropped far enough and for a long enough period of time that it’s going to have serious implications” for the population and the economy, Mather said. With declining fertility, the U.S. population would age, and ultimately the labor force would decline as older workers retire — a trend already well underway with the Baby Boom generation reaching their mid-60s.

The financial crisis “has had the most punishing impact on demographic trends of anything since the Great Depression,” Johnson said.


A small part, or perhaps large part, can be attributed to untended consequences of college loans. Overburdening debts, that can not be dismissed in bankruptcy, prevent young people from from forming households and having families.

It doesn’t help the fertility rate when 36 percent of all 18- to 31-year-olds reside with their parents.


^^ The above is true but that’s what the population controllers want. They want to make conditions difficult, if not impossible to raise more than one or two kids, and radical feminism has also contributed to this decline with it’s anti-marriage, pro abortion stance.
Once a population starts falling it’s difficult to turn it around. With fewer young taxpayers, taxes must be raised to support an ageing population thus making more difficult to afford to have children. (or more than one or two as we see in some European countries)


Those are good points. High education loans which last for decades burden new families, who have already delayed marriage because of the bad economy and weak job prospects. Young people who can’t even afford to live on their own until their 30’s mean delayed marriage, delayed parenting, fewer children.

The problem is the declining TFR just makes the problem more enduring, turning the recession into a near permanent feature, and limiting economic growth for decades.


Too many factors coming together to dissuade women from having children. I use to think it was purely for economic reasons, but the fact is, the least likely who can support children have more children than those who can financially support kids.

There’s no way you change the role of women in a society and that not have an affect on not only the family, but the overall birthrate in society. What’s staggering is in many regions, especially Eastern Europe, the net loss in the population is substantial. It has to affect the economy in some way,especially long term.

It’s too early to see the effects because the previous generation that had average birthrates is still living. In the coming years, we’ll see dramatic loss in population in the Western and Eastern Europe regions accelerate, particularly in the areas that most changed the roles of women being mothers


^^Yes once the Baby boomer generation (or it’s equivalent in other places) dies off, then the population loss will really go into free fall. And fewer women of childbearing age means fewer children in general as women are only able to have 10-13 kids (excepting rare exceptions) in a lifetime even if they start young.


If you take this stance then you can include those practicing NFP…taking us to a place I just wouldn’t want to go


If you study our great history. The Church has always struggled in places where the birthrate and fertility was low. Look at the regions today where birthrate is low, Europe is a perfect example, compare that to places with high birthrate and fertility, Africa. Now compare the two and see where the Church is expanding and contracting. Futhermore, if you look at the great plagues,famines and wars that decimated the population, these were hard times for the Church.

To Mother Churches credit, she knows this and stays true to promoting and not destroying life. She also promotes immigration to offset these low birthrates, it’s no coincidence that the Church is pro-immigration

Economists today are not using this demographic metric(birthrate/fertility) when they make their forecasts. They focus on debt and politics as the sole reasons for economic contraction and slow growth. It’s very rare in history that economies have expanded when population shrinks. We’ll have to see in the coming years whether this theory holds and whether what’s happening today in much of Europe is an exception to that rule.


Since the economy is mostly allowing only part-time jobs rather than full-time, it is not surprising that economic factors (supposedly more jobs) are not allowing for higher fertility. The job market now is going to mostly effect the part of the portion of the population that have the most kids (the lower class).


Even with a declining birthrate the UN projects the world population–7.2 billion as of June 2013–to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. The sustainability or carrying capacity of the earth is debatable and ranges from 1/2 billion to 9 billion. The best ecological estimates put the carrying capacity at 2 billion. Translated that means we require the resources of 4 earths to sustain our present population and are depleting our resources by borrowing from the future generations. I hope that God has something better waiting for the future than these facts portend.

Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist

Physicist: I’ve been thinking a bit about growth and want to run an idea by you. I claim that economic growth cannot continue indefinitely
Economist: Did you say that growth can not continue forever?


The trouble is that many do not count human beings as one of earth’s renewable resources. They are the planet’s most productive renewable resource.


This is true world wide. There is an interesting video of the phenomenon here:



No, No, I didn’t mean everyone should have large families.
Not everyone can and not every one should. I think NFP is great. And not everyone wants to or can marry young, either.
I simply mean that for a lot of the 20th century we’ve been bludgeoned over the head with the idea that having more than say 2 kids is bad and irresponsible, harms the environment, women should postpone having kids or marrying until they their careers off the ground, ect, and coupled with pre-marital sex and cohabitation the population has dropped dramatically. And in some places the fertility rate is below replacement. I think this has led to economic woes in some countries.
That and the campaigns around the world to discourage childbearing in countries such as Africa,ect
I’ve heard and known personally people who are given a hard time because they are pregnant with a 4th or 5th or 6th child(don’t you know what causes that? What about the environment?)


This may very well true. The forecasts and projections from the 1970’s are on track to match the population we have today. However, certain dynamics have changed, the birthrate and fertility which they themselves already acknowledged can and should affect those older projections as we approach the peak population increase. A decrease and reversal of this rising trend will be a sharp and dramatic decrease. Decades of growth will be wiped out in far lesser time.

Those who don’t agree with the UN’s forecast going forward are just saying that yes, we have peaked as was forecast 40 years ago, however there have been dramatic changes in society to show that increase is not sustainable going forward, perhaps Africa will grow, but clearly, Europe will not if the average family has less than 2 children, the number needed by every family to sustain population.

More numbers that the industrial world will decrease. These numbers are vastly different than the ones they used in the 1970’s to project the population explosion.Again
remember that the population they included in their count back then is still alive, and much of that population had average fertility rates. That’s not the case today, and that’s the key difference in the forecast going forward

PS: Look at the source of these figures at the bottom


Also one of the biggest consumers of resources.


Interesting study, if you skip to near the 4 minute mark in the video, that’s probably more related to our discussion on this thread. With the exception of very few nations, most of the world is having smaller families whereby members are just living longer.

The dots and and data shifting left would cause future population to shrink not grow. There’s no way a population will grow if families are getting smaller. If anything, they may be relatively the same, but growth is not possible. Even the nations that have larger families, their mortality rate is higher offsetting some of the gains of their larger families.

All the other stuff about income, wealth of nations itself does not and is not intended to show growth in population, only that wealth among nations have normalized. This wealth increase is not correlated to the population increasing, probably only in Africa that is true, but many nations there are so impoverished, it’s inevitable that they would experience some rise in income and wealth.

We are now at the stage(going forward) to see how smaller families will affect future wealth and economies. If we look at history as i mentioned before, it’s been very rare to see cases where economies flourish when its population contracts. We’ll just have to wait and see, but at least we have a different perspective today a world view on good data we didn’t have in the 1970’s looking beyond 2014


And Congress just got rid of a solution that would have allowed all education loans to be paid back at .75%…they had the solution right in front of them and voted against it…!!!

Shows me whose pocket they are in though!


The study is based on a very fundamental flaw. It assumes that the economic conditions, especially for jobs, has improved or recovered from the Great Recession. It hasn’t. The “numbers” may look better, but that is because the govt is manipulating the numbers for their own politcial gain. The economy is still awful, even now 5-6 years after the housing market collapse.


I think this is the most plausible explanation. Or maybe there’s a slight delay in the economic situation improving and fertility rates rising. You don’t wake up one morning and look at economic news and then start trying instantaneously to have a baby based on that. Time will tell, I guess.

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