Daily Dispatches
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Has the baby bust bottomed out?


It’s a baby step. But at least it’s a step in the right direction.

A new report released Thursday by Demographics Intelligence predicted a minuscule increase in the total fertility rate in the United States for this year, bumping it up to 1.90 from a 25-year low of 1.89 in 2012. Official estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are not expected until 2015. 

“The United States has seen marked declines in childbearing in the wake of the Great Recession, but we think that this fertility decline is now over,” Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence told USA Today. “As the economy rebounds and women have the children they postponed immediately after the Great Recession, we are seeing an uptick in U.S. fertility.”

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The U.S. saw a dramatic dip in the birthrate in 2011—63 births per 1,000 women—the lowest it had been since reliable numbers became available in 1920, according to a 2012 Pew report. But demographer Mark Mather of the not-for-profit Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C., said economic factors often influence a nation’s fertility rate. The Great Recession dip mirrors a similar slow-down in births during the Great Depression.

The estimated fertility rate is not an actual measurement but predicts the number of births a woman is expected to have in her lifetime if she follows current age-specific fertility rates, according to statistics from the CDC.

The decline, however, is a real measurement. And recent decades’ declining birthrates aren’t limited to the United States. Some European and Asian countries are already scrambling to find enough workers to support their rapidly graying populations. Demographers are warning of the dangers of a “population implosion.” 

Last year’s Pew report noted that immigrants to the US were beginning to adopt the childbirth rates of their new country. This could pose a problem, since the immigrant birth rate has kept the overall U.S. population growing since the 1970s. 

Demographers like Mather, however, hope that a slowly improving economic situation will encourage families to have more babies. Going to church would help, too.

“Much of the downturn in births is related to economic factors, but economic factors do not affect the fertility decisions of all parents or future parents,” Sturgeon told USA Today. “Partly because religious communities provide a family-friendly context to the women who attend them, religious women are more likely to have children and to bear a comparatively high share of the nation's children, compared to their less religious or secular peers.”

Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is a World Journalism Institute graduate. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.


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