October 17th, 2011 | Posted in Marriage/Family
by Eric Zuehlke, web communications manager
Just a quick plug for a couple of interviews with PRB’s senior visiting scholar Carl Haub on the decline in the U.S. birth rate since the onset of the recession: First, a CNN article from last week and an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered last Friday.
Historically, women have had fewer children during tough economic times, whether it was the Great Depression, the recession of the 1970s, or now. So what’s behind lower birth rates? Social changes play a large role, as in the 1970s. In the NPR interview, Haub says: “The birth rate really began dropping in the late ’60s. And I think most people believe that that was due to changing roles of women and the way, you know, what women saw as their future and as their role in life, certainly. We had Roe versus Wade in the early ’70s – 1973, I believe. And then we had the gas crisis, plus we had stagflation.”
But the single most important factor is the economy. Since 2007 (when the United States had the largest number of births in its history), the birth rate gone down significantly. Simply put, people aren’t confident in the future, and having a kid is a major investment ($227,000 — without including college tuition — according to some estimates). People can’t, or don’t feel they can, afford to have as many kids when jobs are scarce, incomes aren’t rising fast enough, college costs continue to outpace inflation, and the economic outlook remains uncertain.
If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve looked at this issue from many angles over the past couple of years:
- Will the Economic Downturn Lower Birth Rates? (PRB Blog post, Jan. 8, 2009)
- The U.S. Recession and the Birth Rate (PRB web article, July 2009)
- U.S. Fertility in Decline (PRB web article, February 2011)
- First Results From the 2010 Census (PRB Report, July 2011)