When times are good, families generally have more babies. This is the trend in modern times. Good times generate more good times. The fertility rate of women of all ages goes up. Demand increases and nations enjoy increased prosperity.
However, today the scenario is dismally different. The economy is booming as never before. Unemployment is down to record lows. And the number of babies is going down, not up.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the 2017 fertility rates reached a forty-year low. The rate now stands at 1.76 lifetime births per women. This is well below the 2.1 births needed for population replacement. This is also the second year in a row that it has dropped to a record low.
The decline reflects all major population groups. In fact, the steepest decline is recorded among minority women. All age categories, except those over 40, saw significant drops in birthrates. Even the age thirty category, which normally reflects deferred childbearing saw significant decline. In fact, nearly one in five births now occurs to women 35 or older, when childbirth is riskier.
This trend signifies lower rates and also a lowering of the actual number of babies born. There are 500,000 fewer babies in 2017 than there were in 2007. At the same time, there are seven percent more women of prime-childbearing age today.
This great plunge in births is happening just when it is not needed. A booming economy needs more people, not less. It needs bigger populations in countries that are trading partners. Thus, the even worse birthrates in Italy, Spain, Japan, China and other industrialized countries are ominous signs of disaster. The present boom has no future if populations everywhere are not replenished.
That is why demographers are perplexed by the low birthrates in full prosperity. The normal rule of more babies seems to be broken. Mentalities have changed.
People are not having more babies for cultural reasons. The culture favors a mentality that is not baby-friendly. It ruthlessly prevents life by widespread contraception and abortion. Feminist ideology and promiscuous lifestyles undermine the very idea of the family. Divorce has made forming families more difficult and riskier. Remaining single is much more common.
In addition to these long-active cultural forces, a new distorted vision of the individual is reorienting people’s priorities. This is especially true of the millennials now coming of age.
In the past, young people might defer babies to accommodate a career. Today, some millennials are deferring adulthood to extend their adolescence. Indeed, the verb “to adult” means to do something adult-like inside the safety of one’s adolescence. There are those who do not wish to grow up.
Younger generations do not want be tied down with families. In their deferred adulthood, hobbies, personal interests and adventures become major goals in their lives. The prime time of adventures and career advancement coincides with the prime childbearing years. Hence the general trend to put off not only childbearing but even marriage to accommodate their personal goals. This has led to increased birthrates to those over forty. However, it has also ended tragically with those who have run down the clock and are unable to conceive.
An increasingly hedonistic culture only makes these new priorities more feasible. When pleasure is the main motivation in life, people become more self-centered and individualistic. The center of life becomes the individual and not the family. Today’s technology and economy makes it easier for people to spend more time and money on themselves. It also makes them more reluctant to make sacrifices or increase their responsibilities with a large family.
Those studying the problem are perplexed by the downward trend because it is so anti-natural. The natural desire to form families is usually strong enough to maintain populations. Even anti-family cultural forces have been defeated by this strong desire. People have everything to gain from families. Nations also profit. Strong families have always resulted in strong economies and vice-versa.
Now, not even prosperity appears to make a difference. People have realigned their priorities. And babies are not part of the future.