US Births Lowest in 3 Decades Despite Improving Economy

US Births Lowest in 3 Decades Despite Improving Economy (usnews.com)

[U.S. News, 5/15/19]  US birth rates reach record lows for women in their teens and 20s, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years.

America’s baby bust isn’t over.

The nation’s birth rates last year reached record lows for women in their teens and 20s, a government report shows, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years.

The provisional report, released Wednesday and based on more than 99% of U.S. birth records, found 3.788 million births last year. It was the fourth year the number of births has fallen, the lowest since 1986 and a surprise to some experts given the improving economy.

The fertility rate of 1.7 births per U.S. woman also fell 2%, meaning the current generation isn’t making enough babies to replace itself. The fertility rate is a hypothetical estimate based on lifetime projections of age-specific birth rates.

Whether more U.S. women are postponing motherhood or forgoing it entirely isn’t yet clear.

If trends continue, experts said, the U.S. can expect labor shortages including in elder care when aging baby boomers need the most support.

“I keep expecting to see the birth rates go up and then they don’t,” said demographer Kenneth M. Johnson of University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy.

He estimates 5.7 million babies would have been born in the past decade if fertility rates hadn’t fallen from pre-recession levels.

“That’s a lot of empty kindergarten rooms,” said Johnson, who wasn’t involved in the report.

Other experts are not concerned, predicting today’s young women will catch up with childbearing later in their lives. The only two groups with slightly higher birth rates in 2018 were women in their late 30s and those in their early 40s.

“Our fertility rates are still quite high for a wealthy nation,” said Caroline Sten Hartnett, a demographer at the University of South Carolina……..


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