Friday, October 14, 2011

U.S. Birth Rate Drops As Economy Falters

Image: Percentage decline in U.S. birth rates by state, 2007-2010
In this morning's post, I reported an anecdote about my friend Leslie, who among other things has bemoaned that her dire financial situation is going to delay her being able to start a family. Well, as reported today by Talking Points Memo, here come the statistics indicating that she is not alone:
A new Pew report details a sharp decline in fertility rates across the United States that appears closely tied to the economic recession that hit the country in approximately 2007.

The correlation between a faltering economy and the national birth rate is nothing new. What is astounding, however, is that the birth rate for almost every state has dropped dramatically. In 2007, the country experienced a record number of births, 4,316,233. Since then, following one of the worst recessions the U.S. has ever seen, Pew's provisional data shows that the number of births in 2010 was just 4,007,000.
Note that the biggest declines have occurred in some of the states that have been hit hardest economically during the Great Recession, such as California, Arizona, Nevada and Florida. Another thing to keep in mind about this is that all of our social welfare programs, particularly Social Security, are designed based upon an assumption of continued population growth. Should it continue long term, this trend spells financial disaster.

I guess we're going to have to start referring to: Peak Americans.


  1. Bill, that may not be such a bad thing, considering the carbon footprint of the average American (not to mention the amount of human suffering and general stupidity this country exports to the world).

  2. @joonsae - I totally agree. Overpopulation is another huge problem we collectively refuse to deal with--and Americans contribute far more than our actual numbers for the reason you cited.

  3. Except that our system is designed for, and requires, growth. Right now, population growth is pretty much the lone upward force. Virtually all of our population growth is coming from immigration.

    Personally, recognizing that anybody who isn't a Native American is an immigrant (one could argue that even they are if you believe we all came from somewhere in ancient Africa), I like immigrants. :-)

    That said, population policy is useless unless it truly addresses all population changes (birth/death AND immigration/emigration). It would be absolutely fantastic if this country were to have the foresight to actually start to think about a population policy designed for at least zero population growth (decline would be much better). But, whoops! See opening sentence... our system requires growth.

    If you are waiting for wisdom to override the desire for growth, you will be waiting a long time. A better bet is that wisdom will start to arise only after the end of growth. On a more upbeat note... we might not have to wait all that long for that to occur.