US Birth Rates May Rebound

monkeybusiness_Birthrate© CAN STOCK PHOTO / monkeybusiness

As you know, I have been tracking and analyzing demographic trends for decades. Here is a recent one of great interest.

US birth rates have not rebounded as expected in a growing economy, writes Mia de Graaf in the Daily Mail. But they might yet, counters Michael Barone in The Washington Examiner.This would be due to younger and ethnic Americans, in the coming years, experiencing more employment opportunities and rising wages (as they move out of expensive cities and into more affordable smaller cities and suburbs), hence raising marriage and birth rates as well.

Here are excerpts from the two articles.

Birth Rates Have Not Rebounded

Mia de Graaf reports:

US birth rates have plummeted to historic lows, new CDC figures reveal.

Since 2007, fertility rates have plummeted 18 percent in large cities, 16 percent in mid-sized counties, and 12 percent in rural areas.

As expected, the average age that women have their first child continues to climb – now at 24.5 years old in rural counties and 27.5 in metropolitan areas.

The figures fall in line with the steady trend of declining birth rates in the US, which started to sharply downturn after the economic crash in 2008.

But according to Gretchen Livingston, a demographer at Pew Research who specializes in fertility, it’s not clear why that dip hasn’t started to level off now, 10 years later.

Demographers had expected that the sharp dip, which started after the 2008 economic crash, would have leveled off by now. But new CDC figures suggest there is no slow-down in any region. …

But They Might Yet

Michael Barone writes:

Americans’ fertility rate – the number of children per woman aged 15 to 44 – has hit a post-1970s low. Birth rates typically drop in recessions and rise a bit during booms. They did drop notably in 2007-2009. But the latest data don’t show a rebound, despite significant economic growth and record low unemployment.

The trend varies among demographic groups. Native-born Hispanics and blacks used to have above-replacement (2.1 births per woman) rates. Now they’re below-replacement, almost as low as native-born whites and Asians, which are down only a bit. Immigrant birth levels remain above replacement levels among blacks, but only barely above among Hispanics and below among whites and Asians.

One possible consequence: Those often gleeful predictions that whites will soon be a minority will not be realized so soon, or maybe ever. Nor is it clear, as sociologist Richard Alba has suggested, that often-intermarrying Hispanics and Asians will see themselves as aggrieved minorities. They might, as Italians and Poles once did, just blend in.

Also, the sharp drop in Hispanic birth rates, combined with the sharp drop in Hispanic (especially Mexican) immigration post-2007, means a lower proportion of immigrants with low skills competing for jobs with low-skilled Americans. Asian immigrants may outnumber Hispanics and arrive with significantly higher skill levels. So may immigrants from African countries like Nigeria and Ghana. Their capacity for expanding the economy rather than competing for low-skilled jobs may point to unexpected growth. And neither group arrives with grievances rooted in slavery and American racial segregation.

Other familiar trends may be reversed. Demographer and Institute for Family Studies research fellow Lyman Stone, citing various data, argues, “The decline in fertility is mostly due to declining marriage,” as downscale women have had difficulty finding suitable spouses. They might have more success if the recent increase in downscale wages continues.

Similarly, fewer young people would get caught in the trap of incurring huge college debt for worthless degrees (or no degrees at all) if, as the Manhattan Institute’s Aaron Renn suggests, higher education enrollments, already declining, start plunging precipitously around 2025. Might young people who bypass college find constructive jobs and marry and raise families as their counterparts did in the postwar years?

That’s suggested by another recent trend reversal. During the sluggish 2008-2013 economy, young Americans stayed put in tiny child-unfriendly apartments in hip coastal central cities like New York and San Francisco. They paid high rents resulting from stringent environmental restrictions. This was hailed as a move toward progressive attitudes.

But evidently not. As NewGeography.com proprietor Joel Kotkin has observed, when growth returned, young people began heading to children-friendly suburbs and exurbs, ditching subway facecards for SUV fobs.

All of which raises the possibility that current stubbornly low birth rates may be on the verge of a rise, away from the economically and culturally divided, low-birth-rate society described in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, and perhaps toward something suggested by Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.”

For the moment, these countertrends are just possibilities. But because persistently low birth rates lead to population loss, economic stagnation and low creativity, let’s hope some of them come true.