Jane Ross / Reuters
US birth rates fell again in 2018, to 3,788,235 births – which is a decrease of 2% from 2017. This is the lowest number born in 32 years, according to a new federal report. The numbers also lowered the US fertility rate to record lows.
Not since 1986 has the United States seen so few children born. And this is a continuous decline: 2018 was the fourth consecutive year that fell, according to the preliminary birth rate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Birth fell in almost all the breed and age groups, with only small gains for women in the late 30s and early 40s, the CDC says.
The news has come as a surprise to demographers who say that with the US economy and the labor market, a year of growth continued, they had expected birth rates to show signs of stabilization or even rising. However, the drop can force changes in forecasts on how the country will look – with an older population and fewer young workers maintaining main social systems.
"It's a national problem," says Dowell Myers, a demographics at the University of Southern California.
"The birth rate is a barometer of despair," says Myers in response to CDC data. Explaining that idea, he says that young people will not plan to have babies if they are not optimistic about the future.
"At first, we thought it was the recession," Myers says about the recent decline in birth. But after a small increase in 2012, the course took another nosedive. He adds that with almost all economic standards – apart from high housing costs – birth increases should now rise.
As for what lies behind the negative feeling among people of childbearing age, Myers quotes the current political turbulence and a bleak view of the future of America "
" It is not going well, he says, "and it comes in particular young people, more than old people. "
Many current or willing parents also responded to the report on Wednesday, using social media to list a number of barriers to having children in the United States, from the frustration of finding childcare to high insurance costs and lack of parental leave and other support schemes. And they note that while the national economy has done well, workers' paychecks have not increased at the same rate.
As Elena Parent, a state senator in Georgia wrote on Twitter "Parents Do You Know Why the Birth Year Falles. The children are expensive and time consuming and our society does not make it easy." Penn State's sociologist Sarah Damaske is working safety – even at a time of low unemployment.
"From January 2009 to December 2017, 36.6 million US jobs were gone. There are more jobs than lost during the big recession," Damaske said. "So, even if unemployment is better, companies still use redundancies to maintain profits at the expense of their workers."
Quote conversations with people who have lost their jobs in the last decade, Damaske – who writes a book on the subject – says some workers have resigned because they may not find stable jobs again.
"When you think you may not be able to find steady work, it is more difficult to imagine how to form a family," she says.
Part of the trend also reflects a cultural shift, as more Americans delay marriage and child rearing. While women in the 20s have historically given birth to the children in the United States, women in the early 30s had a higher birth rate in 2017, for the first time ever. And that gap was extended in 2018.
In what is generally seen as a bright spot in CDC's preliminary data, teens saw another sharp decrease in birth rates and dropped 7% in 2018 to 17.4 births per 1000 teenagers between 15 and 19 years . That rate has now decreased by 58% since 2007 and by 72% since 1991.
Cesarean delivery or C section fell to 31.9% in 2018, says CDC. It is below a peak of 32.9% in 2009. Chesarean procedures in low-risk cases also decreased to 25.9% of all deliveries.
From 2017 to 2018, the number of born 1% for Latin American women and 2% for non-Hispanic white and non-Spanish black women fell. The frequency dropped by 3% for women identified as non-Hispanic Asian and non-Hispanic AIAN (American Indian & Alaska native).
The latest data on birth rates sent the US farther away from a viable rate of replacement – the standard for a generation that can replicate its numbers. The United States has generally fallen short of that level since 1971, says CDC.
The total fertility rate fell to 1,728 births per 1,000 women during their lifetime – a decrease of 2% from 2017. It is well below the replacement rate of 2100 births per 1,000 women.
Census Bureau has long predicted that America's future population growth will increasingly rely on immigration despite a fertility rate historically higher than similar developed countries.
According to the census agency's population clock, the United States currently gets one person every 16 seconds, partly because it adds an international migrant every 34 seconds. Both of these are net results, which means that they represent deaths and outward migration.