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Where Are All of the Babies?

By Brittany Gebben

The U.S. birth rate hit an all-time low this past year with the number of babies born in the country in 2018 being its lowest level in 32 years.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.79 million babies were born last year…. A 2% decline from the previous year and fourth yearly decline in a row.

The number of babies born in the U.S. peaked in 2007, then when the recession hit, that number started to decline. Simply put, when the economy is bad, Americans have fewer babies… However, as economy, stock market, housing market, and more all improved, the number of babies born in the U.S. hasn’t rebounded.  So where are all of the babies?

The only growth or increase in birth rate the past year has been in women ages 35 and older.  These statistics are not something we’re all unaware of.  American families are not as they used to be where the mother worked in the home to care for the home and many children while the father supported the family.  There’s been a shift.  Now, more and more, women are equally devoted to their careers, causing them to wait later in life to have children and/or have less children than they chose to years ago.

As I’m currently writing this, I’m pregnant with our second child and in my early 30s.  I found these recently released statistics interesting.  Had you asked me in high school when I thought I would have children, I would’ve answered “my early 20s”.  As the years passed and my early 20s approached, I married my high school sweetheart right after college and at that point, as our early 20s quickly passed, my husband and I were not interested in starting a family with so much focus on growing our careers.  I look at our friends and, my younger sister and her friends, and notice the same trend.  Many people I know are deciding to wait until “later” in life to get married or start a family and some have chosen not to have children at all.

So where are all of the babies? As women wait longer and longer to have children, the likelihood of them having as many children as they may have years prior becomes less likely, as their career, fertility and other life circumstances may change.  Also, stigmas about new ways to have children or even to not have any at all are beginning to weaken.

There’s also been drop in teen births.  The number of teenagers giving birth has dropped 7 or 8% last year and is down over 70% since its peak in 1991.  Of course, this is a positive change but we’re also seeing a decline in women in the 20s and early 30s giving birth… so where are all of the babies?

The New York Times claims that the long-term decline in both the birth and fertility rate is bringing the United States more closely in line with other wealthy countries.  However, with retirees leaving the workforce and baby boomers entering retirement we’ll now have fewer people to fill the positions.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that as of 2017, women in only two U.S. states — South Dakota and Utah — were having children at rates high enough to sustain existing population levels.  In 2017, the total fertility rate for the U.S. continued to dip below what’s needed for the population to replace itself, according to a separate report published by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The numbers are thought-provoking as we dive into why our birth rate is hitting an all-time low, a real shift is happening and we question, where are all of the babies?

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  • Tim Feemster

    If it were not for immigration, we would have a declining population staring us in the face. Remember that over 65% of the GDP is based on consumption. Lower population means lower consumption means lower GDP means less wealth means a downward slope to an upside down economy and our inability to continue to finance our future with debt. This is the same long term outlook for most highly developed countries like Germany, Italy, Greece, Great Britain, France, Scandinavian countries, and others. Managing this shrinking population will become our highest priority.