Research shows that the fertility rate has dropped drastically over the last 50 years in the United States. The general fertility rate is determined by the rate of births to women ages 15 to 44. For comparison, the average number of children per woman in 1965 was more than five children. Over the last fifty years the number of children per woman has dropped in half. Globally, now the average woman has fewer than 2.5 children.
Today the fertility rate is at a record low of about 60 births per 1,000 women. Studies show that 3.85 million babies were born in the United States, in 2017. This number of births is the fewest since 1987. During 2017, the birth rates were shown to decrease within teens by seven percent from 2016. Women in their 20s hit a record low and dropped by four percent. The birth rates for women in 30- 34 dropped by two percent, and women that are 35-39 dropped by one percent.
Birth rates have been known to drop during difficult times economically, as people wait until the economy rebounds and rises. However, the rate has not recouped since the Great Recession. In 2017, there were an estimated seven percent more women of childbearing age, yet women had nearly 500,000 fewer babies than in 2007.
There is no question that society has changed drastically over the last 50 years, but what exactly may be causing this drop?
Reasons why the Drop is Occurring
There are many different factors that could come into play in regards to the drop. These factors range from concerns within the workplace, financial reasons, societal reasons, and medical reasons.
When it comes to trying to conceive, many couples may struggle with fertility issues. Studies show that 6.7 million women between the ages 15 to 44 have an impaired ability to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. Out of this same group of women 10.9 percent were found to have an impaired ability to conceive. Out of the 6.7 million women, 1.5 million were found to struggle with infertility. Infertility is when a woman is unable to become pregnant after twelve consecutive months of unprotected sex with their husbands. While these numbers may seem huge and alarming, infertility rates have actually dropped according to the CDC. In the year 1982 over 2.4 million women had problems with infertility, while in the year 2010 that number fell to 1.53 million women. These numbers may be dropping due to the improvement of technologies offered by fertility clinics such as in vitro fertilization, ovulation-enhancing medicines, egg storage, and artificial insemination. While these procedures are available to help with infertility, they still remain extremely expensive in most cases.
Many women are choosing to wait to have children until they are past their prime childbearing years. As a woman’s age increases, her odds for fertility and egg count decrease. This may lead to problems conceiving or infertility.
Women are not the only ones struggling with fertility issues today. Sperm count among men is decreasing in many different countries. In the United States sperm counts among men have more than halved in the past 40 years. The counts have been falling 1.4 percent a year, on average. Statistics show that out of men ages 15 to 44 around nine percent struggle with infertility or non-surgical sterility. With couples waiting until they are over 30 to have children they may discover that one or both of them are having reproductive issues.
Today’s Workplace and Finances
The New York Times reports that it could be that this new generation of millennial women delay having children even longer than women from previous generations. A major reason behind this is that childbearing years are considered some of the most critical for advancing in a career. Another reasoning behind this may be that the marital pay gap that springs up after a woman has their first child typically does not close if the woman gives birth between the ages of 25 and 35. The lack of policies in today’s workplace for women to take time off postpartum may also be to blame for this delay.
Marriage and Societal Reasons
Another key factor behind this decline could be that marriage is often being postponed in today’s couples. The amount of women getting married during their childbearing years of 20s to 40s has fallen. Alongside of the decline in marriage, studies show that Americans are having less sex. Out of people the ages of 18 to 30 it was found that nearly 20 percent had not had sex in the past year, compared to the 10 percent between 1990 and 2010.