Americans having fewer children - is the economy to blame?

Americans having fewer children - is the economy to blame?

Does the poor economy has couples thinking twice before having children? Parenthood is expensive and young couples aren't sure they can handle the financial burden in today's environment. It’s not a surprise, then, that the U.S. birthrate has dropped to its lowest point since 1987. But, while the statistics may make an economic case compelling, some experts warn that the cause of the drop is more complicated than just dollars-and-cents.

Birth statistics show that a significant drop took place in step with the recent economic decline. Before the downturn, the average number of births per woman in the U.S. peaked at 2.12, according to USA Today. This year the birthrate is heading for 1.87. based on research by Demographic Intelligence, a company that creates birth forecasts quarterly. A rate of 2.0 is considered "replacement level fertility." The United States saw 4.3 million births in 2007 and this number has dropped each year since then and is now about 3.96 million. That’s a decline of "a little less than 10 percent between 2007 and 2011," Steven Martin, a senior research associate at New York University, told the Daily News.

But it’s not just about the money. Although the recession surely played a role in the birthrate decline, Mark Mather, demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, told the Daily News that there are other broader societal factors to consider. "We know that fertility rates declined in other periods of turmoil," Mather said, pointing to the Great Depression and high-inflation rates of the 1970s as economically-distressed historical precedents. But he also noted that the years leading up to the Great Depression saw an increase in contraception use, as did the 1970s.

Martin mentioned a recent National Center for Health Statistics study that showed that approximately 37 percent of U.S. births are unintended or mistimed. "This could have the effect," he said, "of counteracting or buffering the fertility rate declines." These issues complicate a single-cause explanation of a birthrate drop, say these experts. Family planning, immigration - and accidental pregnancies - all combine to vary in different, multiple directions that impact the rates - although the economy is certainly playing its part.

Article: 26th July

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Posted: 27/07/2012 14:10:42


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