The birth rate for almost every group of women in the United States fell to a 30-year low in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
The provisional number of births in the USA was 3,853,472 - down 2% from 2016, the largest 1-year decline since 2010 - with a provisional general fertility rate of 60.2 births per 1,000 among women ages 15-44 (down 3%), reported the CDC's Brady E. Hamilton, PhD, and colleagues. What's more, the population of the country was quite a bit lower then: 242.3 million then vs. 325.7 million now.
The overall trend in declining birth rates is, however, not unexpected for the United States, as many developed nations see this downturn. In fact, the only age group that saw an increase in birth rates during 2017 was those in their 40's. The optimal fertility rate to sustain a population is 2.1.
They are similar terms that mean slightly different things.
While the number of births nudged up in 2014, it's fallen for three consecutive years.
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The total fertility rate, on the other hand, looks at the average number of children women will have over their lifetimes - how many children a 19-year-old will have, rather than how many she had this year. It shows that the overall birth rate in the USA is down 2 percent on the previous year, making it the lowest on record since 1987.
Why have they both dropped?
There may also be a political reason as well, says Donna Strobino of Johns Hopkins University.
She told AFP news agency: "Women are becoming more educated, they are in the workforce, they are pursuing their careers". She notes that the USA, unlike literally every other country in the western world, does not mandate paid maternity leave.
"And in the absence of policies that really help women who are working to really take some time off post-partum you are probably going to see a continuation of this delay."
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The biggest observable change is that younger people are having fewer children.
But it does not mean the population will shrink. In that scenario, the smaller number of workers paying into the system over many decades means that the gap between revenues and outlays grows even larger than now projected.
"The country isn't going to run out of people", he said.
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