Another Problem to Blame on Millennials

First the auto companies blamed millennials for not driving enough, and now demographers blame them for the nation's declining birth rate.

2 minute read

July 6, 2017, 6:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock

"The United States is in the midst of what some worry is a baby crisis," reports Ariana Eunjung Cha for The Washington Post. "The number of women giving birth has been declining for years and just hit a historic low. If the trend continues — and experts disagree on whether it will — the country could face economic and cultural turmoil."

A country's birthrate is among the most important measures of demographic health. The number needs to be within a certain range, called the “replacement level,” to keep a population stable so that it neither grows nor shrinks. 

 If too low, there's a danger that we wouldn't be able to replace the aging workforce and have enough tax revenue to keep the economy stable.

A June "vital statistics" report released by the from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on provisional birth data for 2016 (pdf) has demographers concerned as it determined that "the provisional number of births for the U.S. was 3.94 million which is lower (down 1%) than it was in 2015."

According to the report, the 2016 total fertility rate was 1,818.0 births per 1,000 women, a decrease of one percent from 2015, and the lowest since 1984. Replacement level is 2,100. However, it notes that "the rate has generally been below replacement since 1971."

"The debate now is about whether the United States is headed toward a 'national emergency,' as some have feared, or whether this is a blip and the birthrate will level off soon," adds Cha. 

Millennial blame

"It's about millennials," says Donna Strobino, a professor of population, family and reproductive health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Some experts think millennials are just postponing parenthood while others fear they're choosing not to have children at all.

While the rates speak for themselves, interpreting them is another story.

“What this is is a trend of women becoming more educated and more mature. I’m not sure that’s bad,” Strobino explained.

The slowing birth rate helps account for the nation's reduced population growth, 0.7 percent in 2015, the slowest since 1937.

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Hat tip to Loren Spiekerman.

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