Friday Jul 27, 201205:46 PM GMT
Birth rate plunges, projected to reach lowest level in decades
Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:0PM
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Twenty-somethings who postponed having babies because of the poor economy are still hesitant to jump in to parenthood - an unexpected consequence that has dropped the USA's birthrate to its lowest point in 25 years.


The fertility rate is not expected to rebound for at least two years and could affect birthrates for years to come, according to Demographic Intelligence, a Charlottesville, Virginia., a company that produces quarterly birth forecasts for consumer products and pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Procter & Gamble.


As the economy tanked, the average number of births per woman fell 12% from a peak of 2.12 in 2007. Demographic Intelligence projects the rate to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year - the lowest since 1987.


The less-educated and Hispanics have experienced the biggest birthrate decline while the share of U.S. births to college-educated, non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans has grown.


"What that tells you is that births have clearly been affected by the economy," says Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence. "And like any recession, it doesn't hit all people equally, and it hit some people much harder than others."


The effect of this economic slump on birthrates has been more rapid and long-lasting than any downturn since the Great Depression.


"Usually consumer sentiment bounces back a little quicker," Sturgeon says. "People are a bit in a wait-and-see pattern. ... There's a sense of hesitancy, of 'What does better look like? How will we know?' - Especially for those of prime child-bearing age. ... The key word would be uncertainty, a lot of uncertainty. "


Many young adults are unemployed, carrying big student loan debt and often forced to move back in with their parents - factors that may make them think twice about starting a family.


"The more you delay it, the more you delay the possibility of a second or third child," says Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families.


"This is probably a long-term trend that is exacerbated by the recession but also by the general hollowing out of middle-class jobs. There's a growing sense that college is prohibitively expensive, and yet your kids can't make it without a college degree," so many women may decide to have just one child.


"We have to think through our policies," she says. "We've got to provide better support systems for working mothers as well as fathers."




The U.S. fertility rate has been the envy of the developed world because it has remained close to the replacement rate of 2.1 (the number of children each woman must have to maintain current population) for more than 20 years. NewsMax


Asian and European countries, where fertility rates are as low as 1.1 (Taiwan) and 1.3 (Portugal), are worried about their populations aging and not having enough young workers to support them. NewsMax


Immigration has helped the U.S. maintain higher birthrates, but that segment has been hard hit by this downturn. The birthrate for Hispanics tumbled from 3 in 2007 to less than 2.4 in 2010, the latest official government statistics. Huffington Post


Japan is a cautionary example of what could happen if the U.S. economy stays weak indefinitely. Japan has been in an economic downturn since the early 1990s, and as a result it now is facing a demographic crisis: the Japanese population is projected to shrink by one-third by 2060, and by then 40 percent of the Japanese population is projected to be age 65 and older. Huffington Post



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