Back when COVID-19 hit and people were told to isolate at home, the somewhat tongue-in-cheek assumption was that there would be an associated baby boom in nine months. But the trend turned out to be quite the contrary. And that baby bust contributed to already declining birth rates in America.
What do declining birth rates mean, in the grand scheme of things? Why are people choosing not to have children right now? And what options are there to reverse the trend?
Birth Rate Trends
The number of births per capita has been going down steadily over the past several years. In fact, current birth rates are the lowest that they’ve been in 35 years, as shown by a study conducted by QuoteWizard.
Before COVID even hit, births in the U.S. have continually dropped 1% year-over-year since 2014. And when you break it down by state, the numbers are even more startling. Between 2014 and 2019, nearly every state has experienced a decline, ranging from a 1% drop in South Carolina all the way to a 14.7% drop in Wyoming. The only state that didn’t experience a decline, Florida, didn’t experience any increase either; it held steady at 0%.
As to why this decrease has been happening, the main cause has been attributed primarily to financial stability. Or rather, a lack of financial stability. For those who are able to choose to have a baby, many are choosing not due to concerns over uncertain or inadequate employment and fluctuations in any home equity. Having a baby is expensive; it’s an estimated $230,000 from birth to age 18. So, it makes sense that money is a primary factor in the decision about if and when to become parents.
Other factors include reduced access to proper and cost-effective health insurance, as well as reduced access to sexual reproductive health care and contraceptive services. These things were perpetuated by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Great Recession in 2008.
The Pandemic Effect
The pandemic added its own negative factors to the U.S. birth rate, of course. Massive loss of employment, health fears, and social upheaval over the past year have had a dramatic effect on birth trends. The baby bust revealed itself in December, with the biggest decline in births seen since the 1960s.
The repercussions of the pandemic are at least on the same level as the Great Recession. This means that birth rates may continue to drop for several more years. But what does all of this mean to the nation as a whole?
Is It a Crisis?
People that research demographics and economics seem to think so. The steady decline in births means that, in the future, fewer and fewer younger people will be around to work and sustain the older population. And it’s an older population that will live longer than ever, pulling from retirement and entitlement programs.
In short, there will be fewer people than ever contributing to the system with more people than ever taking from it. That’s not a sustainable route to a healthy economy or social structure.
What Could Turn Things Around
The above tells us the things that have contributed to people not having babies. Does that mean that the reverse could be true? If so, people are more apt to choose to have children if they feel comfortable with their financial situation and what they perceive as a generally positive state of the world.
Recent measures like increased child tax credits are designed to help with the financial situation somewhat. But on its own, the one-time credit doesn’t seem likely to ensure a sense of overall stability year-round. It’s a band-aid, a short-term solution.
What really needs to happen is for the economy to open back up fully and let it do its thing to try to recover and then, hopefully, thrive. A thriving economy directly leads to a more financially stable population. And, if history has shown us anything (e.g. the baby boom of the 1940s and ’50s after the Great Depression), that should lead to more babies.
For more information about births and other important data matters, be sure to check out the PeopleFinders Blog.
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