(Washington Examiner) Women are having fewer kids, and demographers don’t know why.
U.S. fertility is not recovering from the financial crisis — and demographers (people who track population statistics) aren’t sure why.
The fertility rate fell to a record low …the average number of children a woman would have during her child-bearing years, fell to just 1.86, the lowest rate in 27 years. A (rate) of 2.1 represents a stable population, with children replacing parents as they die off… the excess of births over deaths is now the lowest it has been in 35 years.
Why the decline in fertility has persisted even as the worst effects of the labor market have abated is “an excellent question that no one knows the answer to.”
…part of the post-recession drop-off in U.S. fertility was not as anticipated, namely, the dramatic shift in fertility from younger to older women… birth rates for women in their teens and early 20s have fallen to record lows (while rates for older women have risen – but delaying child bearing also decreases number of children born.)
It’s less likely that the U.S. will return to above-replacement fertility, a benchmark that most advanced economies have fallen well below in recent decades. Sturgeon pointed out that the U.S. only reached a TFR above 2.1 in 2006 and 2007, at the height of the housing bubble years.
The consequences of America’s recession baby bust are already significant. “We’re getting to the point where it’s dropped far enough and for a long enough period of time that it’s going to have serious implications” for the population and the economy. It’s unlikely that the U.S. will return to above-replacement fertility, a benchmark that most advanced economies have fallen well below in recent decades…
The consequences of America’s baby bust are already significant. “We’re getting to the point where it’s dropped far enough and for a long enough period of time that it’s going to have serious implications” for the population and the economy.
And country, ethnic demographics, religious demographics, and culture.
IN A RELATED STORY…
(Boston Globe) Drop in Birth Rate Troubles Iran’s Leaders
In their early 30s, married, and with prospects for successful careers, Bita and Sherag could be contemplating the logical next step in their lives: becoming parents. But for them and an increasing number of young, middle-class Iranians who are deeply pessimistic over their country’s future, raising a child is one of the last things on their minds.
Bita… said she had had two abortions, which are illegal in Iran. “We are really serious about not having kids,” she said.
Iran’s supreme leader… sounded the alarm in a speech last winter, saying he was “shaking with fear” over the “dangerous issue” of population decline… (he) followed that up with a 14-point program:
Hospital delivery stays are now free, and women get longer maternity leaves. Reversing policies to control population growth, the government has canceled subsidies for condoms and birth control pills, and eliminated free vasectomies. Billboards in the capital show a laughing father with five children riding a single tandem bicycle up a hill, leaving far behind an unhappy looking father with only one child. Those parents who have five children are now eligible for a $1,500 bonus, not that many here are likely to be tempted.
“When I see those, I wonder, how can that father even smile?” said Hadi Najafi, 25, an unemployed professional soccer player. He said he did not have the money to marry. “Anybody with a lot of children is either very rich or very irresponsible,” …
…the number of children per couple has now dwindled to 1.3, more typical of a developed, high-income country like Germany, which is spending heavily to increase its fertility rate, now 1.4. (Remember, it takes 2.1 to maintain a zero population change. Lower means the population is dropping, higher means it’s growing.) Paradoxically, Iran has never had more people of reproductive age. A little less than 70 percent of the population of 77 million is younger than 35.
IN YET ANOTHER RELATED STORY…
(Asahi Shimbun) Japan’s Shrinking Population
Japan's projected population decline conjures up an image of a ball rolling down a steep slope. According to estimates…, the nation's population will shrink to two-thirds of the current level in the next half-century, and then to one-third 100 years from now.
(Institute)… caught the public's attention by pointing out the possibility of about half of the nation's current rural municipalities ceasing to exist if they keep losing their populations... But aside from the … dire warning, the reports offer no new practical solutions…
Outside Japan, conspicuous drops in birthrates can be found in countries such as Italy and Spain where people rely on their families for the help they need. It is only natural that when families become overburdened, people hesitate to have children.
The burden on families will grow even further in the days ahead. In the past, there were multiple working-age people financially supporting one senior citizen under the welfare system. But the nation (Japan) is fast transforming into a "piggyback" society where there will be only one working-age citizen supporting a senior citizen. Will the working-age people be able to bear their tax and insurance premium burdens? Will more people be forced to give up work or motherhood in order to care for their elderly parents or relatives?
The nation's shrinking population forces us to face life squarely and reconsider how we live.