The fertility rate in the United States has been on a steady decline for over a decade, with no signs of reversal. This decline in birth rate has significant implications for the future of the country, both socially and economically.
Factors Influencing the Decline
Referring to the study of the University of Maryland and Wellesley College, While the onset of the Great Recession may have played a role in the initial decline in birth rates, there is no single policy or economic factor that can fully explain the continued decline. Some suggested factors include the increased use of highly effective contraception, the high cost of raising children, improved occupational opportunities for women, and the burden of student debt on young adults.
Economic and Social Consequences
The sustained decline in birth rates has social and economic consequences for the United States. A lower fertility rate, coupled with a smaller workforce and an aging population, can negatively impact economic productivity and per capita income growth. This decline in the working-age population puts fiscal pressure on social insurance programs like Social Security, which rely on tax payments from current workers to fund benefits for retirees. A shrinking population may also have implications for environmental sustainability, although the evidence is inconclusive regarding the size of the drop in fertility and its impact on climate outcomes.
Uncertainty and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of uncertainty to childbearing trends in the United States. While many expected a significant drop in births due to the economic and public health uncertainties caused by the pandemic, the decline in births between March 2020 and the end of that year was smaller than anticipated. Government assistance programs may have mitigated some of the economic impacts on families during this period.