For the fifth year in a row, the number of babies born in the United States has declined. It’s the lowest number of births — just under 3.75 million in 2019, gleaned from birth certificate data — since 1985, according to the report published online May 20 from the National Center for Health Statistics. Since 2014, that number has been dropping 1 percent on average per year.
There’s been a general downward trend in births since the Great Recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009. In periods of economic uncertainty, births tend to drop, says family demographer Karen Benjamin Guzzo of Bowling Green State University in Ohio. But rather than rebounding after the recession ended, as would be expected, births have continued to fall. It’s an indication that not everyone’s prospects improved as the economy recovered, she says.
People like to feel certain about their coming years before they have children, says Guzzo, who was not involved in the new report. But many younger adults struggle with student loan debt, face soaring home prices and hold jobs that lack health benefits or sick days, she says. Considering the costs for childcare and providing for their children’s education on top of that leads some people to question whether they can afford to be a good parent.
“When the economy sort of writ large looks good,” Guzzo says, “it doesn’t necessarily mean it looks good for individuals and particularly for younger folks in their child bearing years.” Even if young people are working, she says, “they’re just not in a place where they feel confident in their future.”
“This is all pre-COVID, so you can imagine this [uncertainty] is only going to get worse.” https://t.co/lTJoRx3bGd
— Science News (@ScienceNews) May 20, 2020