Giving Compass' Take:

• The CDC reported that U.S. fertility trends are dropping to a record low, and explores the possible reasons explaining the downward trend. 

• The author mentions that a rapid fall in fertility could lead to an unbalanced population and make it more challenging to maintain policies like social security. What implications would this have for philanthropy and the social sector?

• Read about how childbearing varies across women in America. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on May 15 that the number of births in the U.S. is down 2% – “the lowest number of births in 32 years.”

However, this recent decline fits with global trends and isn’t unprecedented in U.S. history. As a demographer who studies fertility trends, what strikes me as anomalous is not the recent drop, but the previous high fertility “bubble.”

In 2018, the U.S. dropped to 1.73 children per woman. This number is well within the range of similar countries, and even remains toward the top of the pack.

There are a number of possible explanations for the recent dip in U.S. A Gallup poll indicates that, for the past several years, Americans’ “satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S.” has remained substantially below levels in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In addition, declines in fertility rates have been particularly steep among younger people, who are disproportionately affected by high student loan debt and may find it harder than previous generations to get on their feet economically.

Finally, part of the drop in overall fertility is due to declines in unintended birth rates. Such declines have been a public policy goal for decades —- so the dip in fertility should be seen as a good thing, not a cause for gloom.

The fertility rate in the U.S. isn’t alarming, yet. But a continued drop could cause problems.

There are at least two scenarios that would create challenges. The first is a persistently low fertility rate that leads, over time, to a shrinking population. A population with a sustained fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman, for example, will quickly contract.

The second is a large, rapid fall in fertility. That eventually creates a lopsided population with more old than young people – making it hard, for example, to sustain policies like social security.

Read the full article about U.S. fertility rates are dropping by Caroline Sten Hartnett at The Conversation.