America’s baby bust isn’t over. The nation’s birth rates last year reached record lows for women in their teens and 20s, a government report shows, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years.
The provisional report, released Wednesday and based on more than 99% of U.S. birth records, found 3.788 million births last year. It was the fourth year the number of births has fallen, the lowest since 1986 and a surprise to some experts given the improving economy.
The fertility rate of 1.7 births per U.S. woman also fell 2%, meaning the current generation isn’t making enough babies to replace itself. The fertility rate is a hypothetical estimate based on lifetime projections of age-specific birth rates.
If trends continue, experts said, the U.S. can expect labor shortages including in elder care when aging baby boomers need the most support.
He estimates 5.7 million babies would have been born in the past decade if fertility rates hadn’t fallen from pre-recession levels.
“That’s a lot of empty kindergarten rooms,” said Johnson, who wasn’t involved in the report.
American women are starting families sooner than most other developed nations, according to other research. Other countries are seeing similar declines in birth rates.
The U.S. could do more to encourage childbearing with parental leave, preschool expansion, and child care subsidies and other policies aimed at helping young adults struggling with student loan debt and housing costs, Guzzo said.
Brandy Loshaw, 39, of Webster, New York, said despite a stable career as a dental hygienist “I would never be able to afford the added expense of a child and live comfortably.” She said she is grateful she “can never remember a time in my life that I wanted children.”
Births were down across racial groups, with small declines for Hispanics, whites, blacks, and Asians. The number of babies born to native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders was stable.
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