US Fertility Rates Continue to Decline

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Based on new data, US fertility rates have dropped to their lowest recorded level and remain below replacement fertility (2.1), with a 2016 total fertility rate (the number of births that a woman will have over her lifetime) of just 1.8. Of course, the declines in fertility echo global trends, especially in the developed world where fertility rates tend to be well below the replacement level.

Although declines in US fertility rates were noted across racial and ethnic groups, perhaps the most interesting piece in this new data is their difference (and different directions) across age groups. Amongst younger women (aged less than 30), fertility rates were observed to decline, with the greatest decline amongst teenage women, reflecting a long term decline in fertility within this group. Amongst women aged 30 and over, however, fertility rates tended to increase, with some of the greatest increases amongst those aged 40 and over. Again, increasing fertility amongst older women reflect longer-term trends. Overall, the general trends in fertility rates suggest a slow but general shift in age-fertility choices as women delay marriage and child bearing choices longer and later into their life.

So, what are the implications of a continued decline in US fertility rates? The obvious one, of course, is that there will be fewer children, with below-replacement fertility contributing to the aging of the US population. Population aging is, of course, a long-term trend, but the US is already seeing an increase in its older (65+) population. Although it lags other developed countries that are already experiencing the economic, political and social implications of aging, the US will increasingly deal with an aging population assuming no significant increase in fertility levels or dramatic increases in immigration into the US.

Further Reading
Nicolas Bakalar. U.S. Fertility Rate Reaches a Record Low. The New York Times, 3 July 2017. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/03/health/united-states-fertility-rate.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fscience&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=4&pgtype=sectionfront

Brady E. Hamilton et al. Births: Provisional Data for 2016. Vital statistics rapid release; no 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. June 2017. Available from:  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/report002.pdf

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