NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Women Forego Childbirth Due to Recession

October 1, 2014

Fewer babies are born when the economy is in trouble, and a new study indicates that some women in their childbearing years during the United States' Great Recession will forego having babies at all.

Malcom Ritter for the Associated Press reports that 151,000 women who were in their early 20s during the start of the Great Recession (2008) will not give birth at all up to the age of 40. Together, that means that the United States will see 427,000 fewer children over 20 years.

The study was authored by Janet Currie, economist at Princeton University. And while 151,000 women ages 20 to 24 forgoing childbirth is a tiny proportion of the 9 million women within that age range, it shows the impact that the economy has on families. The study analyzed women up to age 40. While many held off on childbirth until poor economic times passed, it was women ages 20 to 24 who did not "catch-up" with later births and on whom a recession had a long-term impact. HealthDay reports that the 151,000 additional childless women would be an 8.9 percent increase in the number of women who never give birth.

Currie suggests two possibilities for the drop in births:

  • Women in their early 20s may be deciding between marriage and families and careers, and the poor economy may cause them to hold off on plans for a family. By the time things improve, they may be at a different point in their lives.
  • Men entering the workforce for the first time during a recession may experience lower earnings over the long-term, making them less attractive partners.

The recession and poor economy are the culprit behind the five-year drop in childbirth that the United States saw starting in 2007. It was not until last year that the decline in births stopped, moving slightly upward in 2013.

Source: Malcolm Ritter, "Recessions can postpone motherhood forever," AZ Central, September 29, 2014.


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