We’ve all seen the “doom and gloom” headlines about declining birth rates in the United States and around the world – but what do these rates really mean? And what do they tell us about our future?
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of how a country’s birth rate is measured, why rates have declined in recent years, and how this impacts a country’s economic landscape.
Ready? Let’s go!
How is a country’s birth rate measured?
Before we dig deeper into the implications of the declining birth rate, let’s first take a look at how exactly a country’s birth rate is calculated in the first place.
According to the World Economic Forum, a country’s birth rate is calculated by taking the total number of births in any given year and dividing this number by 1,000 individuals in a population. This rate is then used by countries to estimate population growth and may have an influence on policies related to education, health, and the economy.
Difference Between Fertility Rates and Birth Rates
It’s important to note that there is a key difference between a population’s birth rate and fertility rate.
While the birth rate takes the total number of births per 1,000 individuals, the fertility rate on the other hand is the total number of births per 1,000 individuals of reproductive age. The reproductive age is typically considered to be between the ages of 18 to 44.
For the purposes of this article, we will be taking a look at the declining birth rate and its broader implications on society.
Have birth rates declined?
Yes. According to the Population Reference Bureau, birth rates in the United States have been declining since the 1960s. This trend can also be seen on a global scale, with the World Birth Rate also showing a steady decline over the past 70 years.
Main reasons for the decline in birth rate
There are a number of contributing factors that can help explain why birth rates have been declining on a global scale. The three most notable reasons include women’s empowerment, enhanced access to contraception, and the increased costs associated with raising a family. Here is a brief explanation of each along with some key stats to be aware of.
It is no secret that women today have more choices and control over their life outcomes than ever before. This is all thanks to increased access to education for women, which then coincides with the increased participation of women in the workplace.
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a steady increase in the number of women with bachelor’s degrees, some college experience, and at least four years of high school in the labor force since the 1970s. This is also coupled with a steady increase in women’s earnings.
Now empowered with the option to pursue a career and earn a sustainable income, there has been a noticeable shift in women either delaying or forgoing marriage. This delay has caused some women to postpone their plans for starting a family until later in life, with some making the decision to not have any children at all.
It’s important to note here that although it may feel like you have to choose between having a successful career and starting a family, that is certainly not the case. It is still possible to get pregnant later in life – even in your 30s and 40s.
If this is a goal for you, we recommend learning all that you can about fertility, checking in with your doctor, and tracking your fertility hormones. For additional information on getting pregnant, we welcome you to check out our library of helpful blogs, webinars, ebooks, and fertility courses.
Enhanced access to contraception
The very first commercially produced birth control pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960. This was followed by the introduction of contraceptive implants (such as IUDs) in the 1980s and then the first FDA-approved birth control app in 2018.
By 2018, an estimated 65% of women between the ages of 15 to 49 were using some type of contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy. This increase in usage and enhanced fertility awareness has allowed individuals and couples to plan pregnancies on their own terms, which in turn has had a noticeable impact on when (and if) couples choose to start a family.
Increased costs of raising a family
Another unfortunate factor behind the declining birth rate in the United States is inflation and the increased costs associated with raising a family. For example, real estate specialists at Clever estimate that since 1960, the average, inflation-adjusted cost of raising a child has increased by $31,000.
Other startling stats include:
- Parents are spending 1175% more on education and 155% more on healthcare since 1960.
- Daycare and nursery rates have risen by 175% since 1990.
The result? More and more couples are choosing to delay parenthood until they are more financially stable. Others have decided to refrain from having children altogether. In fact, according to the Brookings Institution, an estimated 44% of non-parents of child-rearing age admitted in a survey that they are “unlikely” to have children.
Why is the declining birth rate a problem?
The freedom to choose whether or not to start a family is deeply personal, and nobody should feel pressured to have kids if they don’t want them. However, on a global scale, there are potential challenges that arise when birth rates decline.
For starters, thanks to innovations in healthcare, people are simply living longer. This is evidenced by the fact that the average life expectancy in the United States has increased by approximately 9 years since 1968.
This increase in life expectancy is a wonderful achievement worth celebrating! However, an aging population requires increased access to public and private health services, which in turn puts pressure on Social Security. And with fewer people being born, there will be a decreased number of individuals available to participate in the workforce. The result? A reduction in tax revenue to support these much-needed social safety nets.
This assumption is backed up by numbers, and according to the US Social Security Administration, Social Security payments are projected to be depleted by as early as 2037. Other countries are facing similar challenges in the future, making this a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed on a global scale.
Reading the headlines and stats about falling birth rates can be scary. At Mira, we want you to be informed, but we also want you to feel empowered to make the best possible decision for your family.
If you don’t want to have children, that’s okay! But if you do, don’t be afraid to start taking steps to make it happen!
Here’s how we can help:
- Check out our website with success stories, blogs, and free resources to learn more about fertility and how to get pregnant.
- Download the Mira App and get to know your cycle better.
- Start tracking your hormones and increase your chances of conception with our ovulation kit.
Don’t be discouraged about starting your fertility journey – we’re here to support you every step of the way!