Posted on | October 17, 2012 by Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D. |
The latest set of fertility figures from the Centers for Disease Control reinforce the point I have been making in my book talks: America’s fertility rate has been falling since the onset of the recession in 2008–but comparisons to Europe’s demographic winter are premature.
A closer look reveals that the drop is coming in part from women in their 20s who may be waiting out the recession to decide whether to have a second or third child. If the next president is able to reverse the economic downturn in time to restore confidence, we may look back at this period as a dip without strategic consequences. Women in their 30s and 40s are not waiting. Their fertility rate has remained unchanged. Women in their mid- to late-40s are having more children than before.
This is related to the fact that the age at which women have children has been rising for more than a generation. And immigration is down due to the recession, which has also led to fewer births by immigrants, who have in the past been a significant factor in America’s exceptionally higher fertility rates on average.
But Jonathan Last finds something eerily lurking in the numbers. He thinks the fact that the number of first births is down may be a sign that American women are on two diverging paths: those who have children and those who do not. As he points out, the social consequences may be unhappy ones.