Baby Bust Continues: Births Lowest in 32 Years as Fertility Rate Hits Record Low

Mish

The number of babies born in the US has declined in 10 of the last 11 years as the fertility rate slumps.

The Vital Statistics report on 2018 Births shows the baby bust continues.

Key Numbers

  • The provisional number of births for the United States in 2018 was 3,788,235, down 2% from 2017 and the lowest number of births in 32 years.
  • The general fertility rate was 59.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down 2% from 2017 and another record low for the United States.
  • The total fertility rate declined 2% to 1,728.0 births per 1,000 women in 2018, another record low for the nation.
  • Birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women under 35, but rose for women in their late 30s and early 40s.
  • The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 was down 7% in 2018 to 17.4 births per 1,000 women; rates declined for both younger (aged 15–17) and older (aged 18–19) teenagers.

The Wall Street Journal comments U.S. Births Fall to Lowest Level Since 1980s.

With the latest decline, births in the U.S. have fallen in 10 of the last 11 years since peaking in 2007, just before the recession. Many demographers believed that births would rebound as the economy recovered, but that trend hasn’t materialized.

Instead, experts say the continuing declines appear to be rooted in several trends, including teenagers and unmarried women having fewer babies, lower Hispanic fertility rates and the rise in women obtaining college degrees.

The decline has important implications for the U.S. economy and workforce. The total fertility rate—an estimate of the number of babies a woman would have over her lifetime—has generally remained below the “replacement” level of 2.1 since 1971. A fertility rate falling farther below replacement level means that, without enough immigrants, the U.S. could see population declines and a workforce too small to support a growing segment of retirees.

Youths Drive Decline

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Abortion

Abortion doesn’t appear to be responsible for the birth decline. The Guttmacher Institute found that both the total number and the overall rate of abortions have fallen to their lowest levels since around the time that Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973. Guttmacher advocates for reproductive rights but its figures are considered reliable by abortion opponents and supporters alike.

Factors

The article cites birth control, education, and waiting longer.

Hope

Demographers hope that as the large millennial cohort, which this year will be between age 23 and 38, moves through their 30s, the birthrate will begin rising again.

But why?

Symptoms

The demographers confuse causes with symptoms.

The causes of the birthrate decline are not birth control or education. Both are symptoms of an attitude change coupled with economic reality.

Initial Cause

  1. Women decided they wanted to enter the workforce. This major attitude change was the initial driving force.
  2. Women needed to enter the work for for economic reasons. Thanks to Fed inflationary policies, it took two incomes to buy things.

The number of births rose from the early 1970s to the mid-2000s, but that masks the true trend as shown in the second chart. Birth rates have been declining since the early 1960s.

Contraceptives were an enabler, but an attitude change coupled with economic reality was the true driver.

Debt and Misplaced Hope

Demographers hope for a millennial rebound. I asked Why?

It's amusing they cannot see the obvious: Student debt and attitudes about debt. Some label student debt a bubble.

Here is a chain of Tweets from yesterday.

Stagnation of It's Own Making

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Promises Gone Bust

Debt, more specifically attitudes about debt, is the number one reason that faith in millennials to have more kids is misplaced.

Millennials were told to get an education at any cost and it would work out.

It didn't and won't. Kids saddled with student debt have delayed home purchases, marriage, and family formation.

On top of that, the Fed's inflationary tactics helped boomers with assets but severely punished millennials who cannot afford homes.

Attitudes, Attitudes, Attitudes

Even attitudes towards car ownership have changed. Once again it's the cost of ownership.

Unlike their boomer parents, millennials do not trust debt, at least to the same degree. That is an attitude change the Fed is fighting and the demographers don't even see.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (67)
No. 1-23
cbide
cbide

Making most immigration legal is the one act that would boost economic growth the most over the longer term. Regardless of why the Baby Bust, allowing immigrants to take the lower paying jobs no one wants boosts growth automatically. Employers make more, workers make money to spend.

Unfortunately the bigots say immigrants cost more then they contribute. That is absolutely untrue. The US Treasury collects billions each year from illegals using phony social security cards and yet pays out no benefits.

There is one reason to limit immigration: Bigotry.

Mish
Mish

Editor

The elephant in the room:

Free benefits and unlimited immigration do not and never will mix

offintherough
offintherough

Was thinking the same thing when I saw the declining birthrate story...the cause is economic opportunity for women increasing, declining for men and economic realities of having children now require two incomes vs. one back 30+ years ago. Children can be wonderful but are a lot of work and frequently are inconsistent with personal goals, particularly for women who need marriage less, inflation which makes all but supporting yourself difficult and half of all kids have seen their parents go through recessions and divorce which deter household formation.

somajarpy
somajarpy

Amazing.

Carl_R
Carl_R

You ask, "what is there to pop" in the student loan issue? The answer is hidden in plain sight, making it easy to overlook. Once student loans became such that you can't get away from them in bankruptcy, they became much, much easier to get, since creditworthiness no longer mattered. As a result, any student just had to sign a paper, and everything was taken care of, housing, tuition, books, and there was nothing to worry about, right? What could possibly go wrong?

The result was a perfectly conventional bubble: Demand for college exploded. There was boom in construction, a growth in enrollment, and salaries, and a dramatic increase in costs of tuition, housing, and books. Even adjusted for inflation, tuition costs have gone up 3-6 times over the last thirty years. The bubble could easily be popped by making it harder to get student loans. Enrollment would fall, and colleges would compete based on affordability. Colleges that overbuilt in the bubble would struggle, or close, but in the end we'd have a leaner, stronger university system, one that once again focused on the quality of the education, and on delivering it affordably.

So much pain... But we can avoid it. We can have free college. That way we don't have to pop the bubble, and we can just make it bigger.

Realist
Realist

Economic Growth = Workforce Growth x Productivity Growth

Since the birth rate and productivity are at historically lower levels, then Economic Growth will slow. The US is attempting to spur Economic Growth with low interest rates, tax cuts, and debt financed government spending. While this may work at the margins for a short time period, the only way to sustainably grow your economy is through workforce growth. And since the jobs of the future will require more skills and education, then it stands to reason that you need to bring in more skilled labour.

Without this skilled labour force growth, and subsequent economic growth, the US will not be able to afford the pensions that are promised, or the debt that has accumulated.

Tengen
Tengen

I agree with everything Mish said but would go even further. The specter of divorce looms large, along with the big financial hit it entails. From personal experience I can say that divorce is no joke, it's a calamitous life event that takes a while to recover from, both financially and otherwise.

Too many of us have failed and younger people have watched us, learning that marriage/kids are an enormous risk. Heck, search for MGTOW on YouTube or anywhere and you'll see a mountain of horror stories. I don't endorse their movement, but there are many sounding the alarm online and there is some truth to what they say.

As for Mish's correct statement that free benefits and unlimited immigration do not mix well, I would add that economic stagnation and no-fault divorce are also a toxic brew, particularly for men.

wootendw
wootendw

I am recently divorced but, despite being nearly 67, I'd like to meet a lady over 30 but still of child-bearing age (or has frozen some of her eggs). Looks aren't that important to me anymore but intelligence is.

Here's my offer. As a retiree, I shall raise and educate the children while the lady pursues her career. I shall use the teaching methods I learned at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. If the lady doesn't have time for pregnancy and birth, we'll hire a surrogate mother.

I am financially secure and, if I kick the bucket, at least my genes were good enough to get me this far.

Warning: I tend to be 'messy' according to most women.

JonSellers
JonSellers

I'd be interested in actually hearing from women on this issue. Why put off childbearing? For some reason, Mishtalk is a sausage fest. I guess the pretty chicks just aren't into Austrian economics.

Cocoa
Cocoa

Demographics, like money supply and prices always must go up. The entire civilization is set up like a ponzi mechanism. Nothing in economics is designed for decreases in population and asset values. As a parent, when asked why I had one kid, I say,"It's too expensive. Kids are really, really expensive to have." Demographics are imploding in all western cultures-even ones that help parents(Sweden for example.) Free universities, lots of social benefits designed to make it easy to be a parent. The US however is probably one of the few countries that look at children as a demographic to fleece before they even get started. College debt? Dept. of Ed gets most of those high rate profits. It's just fucking sad to be a parent in the US. Mediocre at best schools, lousy tax breaks, no help from the state and college debt. The country is getting what it deserves

TheLege
TheLege

Many demographers thought there’d be a rebound as the economy recovered...

Maybe the recovery isn’t real ;)

ksdude
ksdude

Too many people here now! Fix it with migration? Had it with this never-ending growth story bs!

Tengen
Tengen

Another big problem is that women much prefer to marry upward. As women increasingly became part of the workforce and earned solidly middle class salaries, a shortage of high salary men became apparent. Not only that, some of the high salary men are current or former H1Bs, and American women have shown little interest in marrying Indian and Chinese guys. That limits the pool even further.

It's a supply and demand issue, and there aren't nearly enough executive level guys to go around. If women can't find what they want, many of them will refuse to play the game since they can easily exist on their own. Why settle for less?

mark0f0
mark0f0

When the breeding age can't find jobs due to, amongst other things, rampant and out of control H-1B visa abuse, its no surprise that they're not breeding. Top-notch STEM professionals should be easily able to have a stay-at-home wife. Yet most can't even find jobs these days, nevermind get married and have kids.

DFWRealEstate
DFWRealEstate

Debt, destruction of the social contract, trickle-down fiscal and monetary policy. With wealth inequality near Depression era levels, not surprising to see the birth rate decline. Who besides the top 10 percent would want to bring children into the world. The standard of living is declining for a majority of the U.S. population.

Six000mileyear
Six000mileyear

The ebb and flow of births is HIGHLY correlated with major bull and bear markets. It's social mood that is the invisible commonality. Happy people first buy stocks, and then have children. Sad people sell stocks first, then stop having children.

Blacklisted
Blacklisted

Marxism and prosperity have destroyed birth rates, which has happened throughout history. If the gloBull warming believers and eugenicist new their history, they wouldn't need to push their propaganda to control population growth. Nature, including human nature, takes care of everything. Throw in the coming cooling cycle, which will cause crop failures and the associated famines and plagues, due to malnutrition, and the distractive wars that are needed by govt in economic hard times, and I don't think society needs any more help from power-hungry politicians. As is always the case when govt gets involved, they will cause the cyclical decline in population to overshoot to the downside. Knowing the clueless bureaucrats, they will say it is their grand plan to increase wages, by decreasing the supply of labor.

The Lower the Birth Rates & Marxism | Armstrong Economics
The Lower the Birth Rates & Marxism | Armstrong Economics

Having children is not standard. Historically, you had large families because that was your social security, the kids took care of their parents. This trend has been negated by Marxism. With the dawn of "socialism" in the 1930's, the birth rate has declined in the West because government was there to take care of you so you didn't need the family structure. Children were not responsible, that was the state's job. Then historically, the richer a nation becomes, the lower its birth rate. This trend is true even in Ancient times. In Rome, Augustus (27BC-14D) introduced Family Laws making it illegal for young men not to get married and start families. For you see, he too was faced with a era of "free love" like the 1960's thanks to Ovid (43 BC–17/18 AD) who wrote Metamorphoses with the antics of Cupid. He banished Ovid to the Black Sea and his own daughter Julia to an island. It was more than just free love, it was the interesting phenomenon that as a nation gains in wealth and taxes rise, the birth rate declines. Rome underwent this trend and foreign immigrants pour in and take up the lower class jobs. The same trend hit Britain with its rise, Russia, Spain imported French labor to unload the ships from the new world, and the United States where the streets were said to be paved with gold. This is now proof that Singapore will be the richest nation in the world by 2016, its birth rate has also collapsed to the lowest in the world. This is yet another correlation that emerges from the computer when population and birth rates are run along side economics. Fascinating confirmations of trends.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Weird. The local hospitals busiest areas are in the labor and delivery building. It was slow from 2009 to 2014. It has spiked since. This is in the 4th largest metro area in California. My wife quit OB deliveries because it was too ridiculous to keep doing deliveries and only get paid the same as office visits. I see no slowdown in births in our area which is has had an influx of young families from the bay area.

Blurtman
Blurtman

Why no numbers on Germanic or Francic birth rates? Let’s cut the crap and say Spanish Indian instead of Hispanic. The category was abused by white folks with Spanish surnames who got on the affirmative action gravy train and so now we have the category of non- white Hispanic. So lets drop the pretense and just say Spanish Indian. Thank you.

leicestersq
leicestersq

I remember seeing someone talk about fertility rates worldwide. Apparently in the last 50 years, EVERY country has seen fertility rates fall. That seems incredibly significant. If this trend continues much longer, it will be difficult to see how economies can sustain their level of advancement, as so much of it is predicated on a level of specialisation that can only happen with a large population.

FromBrussels
FromBrussels

we need MORE population growth, MORE sick consumerism in order achieve MORE Economic Growth ; one or two years of negative growth would make the debt bloated, ponzi scheme house of cards fall apart, the ever so clever Sapiens ape is caught up in the ever going faster threadmill of our pointless rat race....So like I said we do need M O R E of the same! GO for it : breed, work 20 hours a day, borrow or steal to keep the madness going ! Otherwise we' re screwed.....

magoomba
magoomba

40 years of relentless inflation caused this. More inflation will lead to extinction.

truthseeker
truthseeker

Mish was the question offensive?


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