Americans are having fewer and fewer babies, a new government report finds. In fact, we now aren’t making enough babies to replace ourselves.
For the population to reproduce itself at current numbers, the “total fertility rate” needs to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age over their lifetime, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in their report, released early Thursday. But the latest data show a current rate of just 1,765.5 per 1,000, or 16 percent below the number needed to keep the population stable without additions through immigration.
The total fertility rate has been declining steadily for seven years, but the numbers for 2017 represent the biggest drop in recent history. The rate for 2016 was 1,820.5; for 2015, 1,843.5; and for 2014, 1,862.5.
The CDC offered no explanation for why the American fertility rate is dropping so precipitously.
Experts say the decline isn’t due to a single cause, but rather a combination of several factors, including changing economics, delays in childbirth by women pursuing jobs and education, the greater availability of contraception, and a decline in teen pregnancies.
The trend seen in the United States is also seen in much of the developed world, including Western Europe, said Dr. John Rowe, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. One important factor driving this is the changing roles of women in society, Rowe said.
“In general women are getting married later in life,” he explained. “They are leaving the home and launching their families later.”
But there’s no guarantee that things will work out as planned.