Falling Fertility Rates

April 3, 2013

Jonathan Last's recent book, What to Expect When Nobody's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster, notes that increasing college attendance, the delay of marriage, the birth control pill, religious participation, the rise of the thousand-dollar stroller and Social Security are some reasons fertility is falling, says Michael Rosen of the American.

The primary reason, however, is the lifetime cost of raising a child -- which is now estimated at more than $1 million dollars after including the cost of college.

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA) estimates that the lifetime costs of medical care, primary education, clothing and food are over $200,000 alone.
  • The DOA also estimates an additional $824,000 in average forgone income for parents staying at home or working only part time.
  • Advances in technology have also led to the birth control pill, which was not intentionally created to lower the birth rate but has nonetheless led to a reduction in births.

In addition to technology, the advent of no-fault divorce and prevalence of cohabitation have contributed to lower birthrates. Last also says that expanding age limits for infant and booster seats mean that parents have to purchase larger vehicles, a thought that can dissuade couples from having children.

  • As the population declines, there will be less able-bodied adults in the workforce and the military will shrink because there are fewer soldiers and less tax revenue.
  • Tax revenues will increasingly shift to funding retirement and elder-care programs as fewer workers will support more retirees who are living longer lives.
  • While politically sensitive, Last notes that the rise of modern women's fertility and educational and career achievements are linked to a decline in fertility rates.

Many other countries, like Japan, Germany, Italy and Russia, will struggle with population decline more so than the United States. Luckily, Americans still desire 2.5 children, as they have for decades, which is more than many European countries. While American families only have about 2.0 kids on average, addressing the problem is a difficult task.

Source: Michael Rosen, "Expecting the Unexpecting,"The American, March 25, 2013.

 

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