US fertility has been declining steadily since 2008, according to a reportpublished last week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The report was compiled from birth certificates registered across the US.In 2008, the average number of children per woman was 2.1, roughly the figure needed to replace each parent and keep the population stable. In 2011, this figure dropped to 1.9.“It’s not necessarily worrisome,” says Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, DC. “But if we were to see a sustained drop over five to 10 years, that may be a concern.”
Why are we experiencing this drop? It’s an economic question:
The falling fertility rate is tightly tied to the economic downturn during the past four years, Mather says. Couples are putting off having children, and women’s salaries have become more important to household income, he says.
Things will be fine if the economy picks back up. But, as the IMF warns in the report it released yesterday, the global outlook for the world economy is grim. And when there’s no money, there are fewer kids and, eventually, fewer workers. That’s an even worse outlook for the economy’s long-term prospects.