Population expert sees dangers as U.S. birthrate falls below replacement

Population expert sees dangers as U.S. birthrate falls below replacement


The U.S. birthrate fell from 2007 to 2008 and is now below replacement rate. One population expert, noting that children are the “only future a country has,” warns that a scarcity of children condemns a country to stagnation, bankruptcy and eventually death.

The U.S. National Vital Statistics Report for April 2010 shows that the U.S. birthrate fell two percent from 2007 to 2008. It is a drop below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman to a rate of 2.08.

In 2008 there were 41.5 births per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19, also a two percent drop. The report also indicates that more U.S. children are being born out of wedlock than ever before.

According to the Washington Post, an October survey by the Pew Research Center said that 14 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 and eight percent of those aged 35 to 44 said they postponed having a child because of the recession.

CNA discussed the report in a Wednesday e-mail interview with Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI).

Asked whether the drop in births could be attributed to the economic downturn, he replied:

“Children are an expression of hope in the future. With the downturn in housing prices, and the upswing in the unemployment rate, it is not surprising that many couples decided to defer having children until the economic downturn had corrected itself. We will, I predict, see a bigger drop in the birthrate in 2009, when the unemployment rate closed in on 10 percent, 9.3 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

He said birth rates have fallen in Europe and other developed countries, “for the same reason.”

CNA asked whether an increase in the abortion rate could have been a factor in the falling birth rate.

Mosher said “anecdotal evidence” suggests Americans are “increasingly aborting babies who were unfortunate enough to be conceived during this economic recession.”

He reported that more men and women are having themselves sterilized and contraceptive use is also up.

Asked about the broader consequences for a country below a replacement birth rate, Mosher commented:

“Look at present-day Greece, which is going over a demographic cliff because of a scarcity of children. Too few young people are entering the work force to replace retiring workers, entitlement spending is increasing at the same time that tax revenues are leveling off, and the government is technically bankrupt.

“Children are the only future a country has, and countries that fail to provide for the future in the most fundamental way--by providing the future generation--are condemned to stagnation, bankruptcy, and death.”

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