The United States fertility rate has fallen to an all-time low according to recent data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).  It was just 62.0 births per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2016 and, according to NCHS preliminary estimates, decreased to 61.5 in the first quarter of 2017.  The total fertility rate in 2015 was 1.84, below replacement rate.

The Great Recession of 2007 is attributed much of the blame.  Following the recession many young adults have struggled to enter the workforce and find affordable housing, so have put off having children. It also particularly affected Hispanics, a demographic group that has been boosting U.S. fertility.

Overall fertility goals are changing too, with more women delaying having children in favour of building careers and other goals and having a preference for a smaller family. 

Trump’s recent crackdown on immigration will only add to the challenge of dealing with an aging population.  The 65-and-over population will nearly double over the next three decades, from 48 million to 88 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Worryingly, the Population Research Institute predicts significant economic consequences:

If birth rates continue to decline, and immigration drops off, the impact on the U.S. economy could be significant. Population growth, or more specifically, an increase in the labor force, is a key determinant of economic growth. Economists estimate that as much as one third of economic growth is attributable to workers being added to the labor force every year.

Low birth rates [also] correspond to aging population.  The U.S. is facing a substantial increase in its dependency ratio as the Baby Boomers retire, and working-age adults must replace the productivity thus lost and pay for entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Unfortunately fertility rates are unlikely to reach pre-recession levels because desired fertility goals in the U.S. overall have declined.  The country may be forced to look into ways to better cater to new mothers and families to support the economy – and ultimately the rest of society.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...