Did you know Americans aren’t having a lot of babies? According to a new announcement by the CDC, not only have America’s fertility rates dropped, the numbers have gone down for six consecutive years. In fact, America is below replacement rates. There need to be roughly 2,100 babies for every 1,000 women for the population to remain stable. In 2020, there were 1,637.5 live births for every 1,000 women. In other words, without immigration, America’s population would be getting older AND declining.
So, we can identify the problem, but the real question is, “Why is this happening?” Most articles that address that topic do a laughably poor job of explaining that. For example, here’s CNBC taking a crack at it:
Some experts say that a decline in birth rates could represent a lack of vital resources like housing and food among those demographics, with correlations between the rise in unemployment rates and the decline in birth rates.
Of course, that makes absolutely no sense. After all, if being poor was enough to keep human beings from having children, our entire species would have died out thousands of years ago. While it is impossible to know exactly why American birth rates are dropping so much, here are a number of factors that are probably having a big impact.
1) Children have turned from a financial asset into a financial liability: Throughout most of history, children were looked at as long-term financial assets. You could put them to work earning money, they could do work around the house, and they could take care of you when you got old. Now, people look to the government to take care of them when they get old, and children have become frighteningly expensive. According to the USDA, the cost of raising a child from birth to 17 years of age is $233,610. Of course, for many people, the obligations don’t end there. Just four years of college tuition costs is another $35,720. That doesn’t include housing, food, clothes, a car, and the other things a lot of kids will be looking for their parents to pay either. When you think about it from that perspective, maybe we should be surprised that anyone other than the wealthy are still having kids.
2) Marriage is slowing and declining: Most people that intentionally have children want to do so after they’re married. Statistically, that’s a wise choice. However, for a variety of reasons, the number of married Americans has plunged, divorce has become more prevalent, and the average age people are getting married has dramatically escalated:
In 1962, half of 21-year-olds and 90% of 30-year-olds had been married at least once. In 2019, only 8.0% of 21-year-olds and 51.2% of 30-year-olds had been married.
Even if a woman gets married at all, once she hits 30, she typically starts to become significantly less fertile. So, the longer people wait to get married, the less time they have to potentially have children and if the woman is 30 or older, the less likely they are to succeed.
3) Abortion: In 2020, there were 3,605,201 live births in the United States. In 2018, the latest year we seem to have data for, 619,591 abortions were reported to the CDC. Believe it or not, that number is an enormous DECREASE from previous years. For example, in 1990, there 1.6 million abortions. Still, it’s a considerable number. When roughly 3 out of every 20 babies are murdered in the womb, it can’t help but dramatically reduce the population.
4) Decrease in sperm quality: Not everyone knows this, but the quality of male sperm has dropped enormously across the entire Western world:
“Sperm counts in men from America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have dropped by more than 50 percent in less than 40 years, researchers said… They also said the rate of decline is not slowing.”
No one knows exactly why this is happening. There are theories about chemicals, plastics, cell phones, and other things. Given that this could be a potentially existential threat to the whole human race in a few decades, it should arguably be one of the hottest topics of scientific research on planet earth, but it isn’t. In the interim, it’s already undoubtedly having a big impact on how many children are being born.
5) The increase in entertainment options: This is the idea that people are choosing to play video games, watch pornographic videos, binge on Netflix, chase clout on social media, etc., instead of having sex. In other words, the decrease in sexual activity is the result of an opportunity cost. If this were actually happening, we’d expect to see a significant decrease in the number of people having sex. That is, in fact, what we do see:
Surveys in recent years have been finding that compared with past generations, today’s young adults are not as interested in “hooking up.” The new study is no exception: It found that between 2007 and 2017, the number of 18-to 23-year-old Americans having casual sex declined. Among men, 24% said they’d hooked up in the past month, versus 38% a decade before. Among women, that figure declined from 31% to 22%.
Some people don’t buy into this because they would prefer to have sex as opposed to any of those activities. What they fail to consider is that sex often comes with many non-entertaining activities attached to it. It may be sitting through dinner and popcorn with a girl you find boring in the hopes that you will have sex later. It’s going to a club for a few hours to try to find a girl when you’d rather be home. It’s spending hours on an online dating site, getting turned down, having women no-show, and then going on multiple expensive dates before finally getting to have sex. Many people, if given those choices, are going to take the cheaper, easier, more reliable options that don’t ultimately produce babies.