The fertility rate in the United States has taken a nose-dive, dropping to 1.76 births per woman, below the replacement rate. The decline is across the board: among single women and married women; younger women and older women; and the rate for racial minorities has declined the most of all. And yet, studies show that most of these women want more children.
From Lyman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies, Baby Bust: Fertility is Declining the Most among Minority Women:
The United States just hit a 40-year low in its fertility rate, according to numbers just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2017 provisional estimate of fertility for the entire U.S. indicates about 3.85 million births in 2017 and a total fertility rate of about 1.76 births per women. These are low numbers: births were as high as 4.31 million in 2007, and the total fertility rate was 2.08 kids back then. The United States has experienced a remarkable slump in fertility over the last several years, as I’ve explained elsewhere.
Since 2007, fertility has fallen the most for the youngest women, but in the last year, declines have set in for women in their 30s as well. Fertility declines increasingly seem to be about much more than just postponed fertility, or else these women must be planning to have some very fertile 40s.At least through 2016, this trend appeared to be mostly driven by changes in marital status. Births to never-married women are down more than births to ever-married women: age-adjusted marital fertility is down 14% since 2007, while age-adjusted never-married fertility is down 21%, as of 2016. Preliminary data from several states suggest these trends are likely to continue in 2017.
When it comes to discussions about declining fertility, conservatives tend to “get it” right away: not having a next generation, or having a far smaller one, will cause problems down the line. In my experience, progressives tend to be more hesitant: is this a back-door argument to keep women out of the workplace? No; in fact, there’s robust empirical evidence most women want more kids. Is this some science-denying attempt to ignore climate change? Again, no; in fact, no plausible trajectory of U.S. fertility has any appreciable impact on carbon emissions. And, one question I find the most perplexing, is this some underhanded racist argument that white people need to pick up the pace of baby-making to out-compete minorities? . . . .
That’s because the decline in fertility has been far greater among minorities than among non-Hispanic whites.
What do you think is going on?
Photo by Tognopop [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons