Lost amid the torrent of COVID-19 news in recent months is this important report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the fifth year in a row, the birth rate has fallen in the United States. While there were 3.7 million babies born here last year, it represents the lowest number of births since 1985.
Many factors contribute to the low birth rate, including economics and lifestyle choices. And, as is often the case, fingers are pointing at millennials, those born between 1980 and 1996.
Millennials are waiting longer to get married and have children, if they choose that route at all. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, marriage ages are the highest they’ve ever been. Women are marrying at age 27 on average, and men at age 29. In 1980, the average age for both to marry was 22.
Many people are focusing on building careers instead of families, and some are shackled by student debt. Waiting to have children can reduce the number of kids you have.
Why is this important? The balance of births and deaths is critical to a country’s health. A low birth rate means the U.S. continues to slip further from a viable replacement rate, which is the number of births needed for a generation of people to replace the number of people dying.
This means immigrants will help to keep the U.S. population robust. If deaths outnumber births and immigration does not make up the difference, the country can struggle under the weight of a growing retiree population with too few working-age people to support it.
Every child born is a reason to celebrate. In the U.S. these days, there is even more reason to be thankful for each new addition to the American family.