According to a new report from the CDC, American fertility rates are declining so much that we’re not making enough babies to replace ourselves. The research – which is based on 2017 birth certificate information – determined that to replenish the current population, the “total fertility rate” needs to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women over their lifetime. As it stands, the current rate is 1,765.5 per 1,000 women. In layman’s terms? We’re about 16 percent behind pace.
The fertility rate has been declining in the US for seven years; however, the numbers from 2017 represent the sharpest drop in recent history. Interestingly, the report also broke down the fertility rate by state. South Dakota had the highest rate of births at 2,227 per 1,000 women and Washington DC had the lowest at 1,421 per 1,000 women.
Although the CDC didn’t point to a specific reason for the trend, experts believe it’s most likely due to changing economics, an increased number of women working or pursuing a higher education, and more access to contraception.
Dr. John Rowe, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told NBC News that the decline in fertility rates likely has to do with women’s role in modern society. “In general, women are getting married later in life,” he said. “They are leaving the home and launching their families later.”
“In general, women are getting married later in life. They are leaving the home and launching their families later.”
And while it’s hard to definitively say whether a dip in fertility rates is good or bad, an upside of the trend is that the rate of teenage pregnancies has decreased. “We’ve been seeing, year after year, a precipitous drop in the number of births to teenage girls,” said Dr. Rowe. “That’s good news. Not only are these children not having children, but they’re also getting a chance to finish high school. And that makes a huge difference to their lives.”
Dr. Helen Kim, an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said that while having children later in life has become more commonplace, the longer you wait, the harder it can be. “I think as women delay childbearing, they may not realize that fertility declines with age and that there are limits to what fertility treatments can do for them.”
Is having a declining fertility rate something to stress about? Donna Strobino, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says we shouldn’t worry just yet. “It may not be all doom and gloom,” she said. “I think it may stabilize once women who have been postponing pregnancy have the births they are planning to have.”