America’s Baby-Making Rate Is the Lowest Ever

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Americans appear to be increasingly over the whole procreation thing. Following up on the news that newborns are bad for your self-esteem, a new report from the CDC finds that America now has the lowest number of babies per female yet recorded.

As James Hamblin reports for the Atlantic, the rate — 62.5 births per 1,000 women — has been tracked since 1909, and it’s slipped 10 percent since 2007. Nonetheless, the U.S. population is so gigantic, at 319 million people, that the absolute number of babies is higher than it was ten years ago. By 2060, there will be 417 million Americans, a 30 percent increase.

Learning that the birthrate is going down is way easier than knowing why the birthrate is going down. Some details emerge when you tease out the demographics: Births to women younger than 30 are going down, but they’re going up for women aged 30 to 44. One reason is reproductive technology: egg freezing is growing, as is IVF. The other may be education: More and more Americans are going to college, and young women are far outpacing young men in pursuing higher learning, and as is consistent across the globe, the better educated people are, the later in life they have kids. From 1980 to 2013, the average age of first birth climbed from 22.7 to 26 years.

The other, less hopeful reading is that people might be having kids later because of how little American society supports childrearing. (Liberal columnist Paul Krugman described the state of American child care as “cruel and shameful.”) In countries like France and Norway, there’s lots of state support — public nurseries, stipends for having more kids — so it’s easier for women (and men!) to combine parental and professional responsibilities. The good news is that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have (vaguely) articulated child-care plans, so more help may indeed be on the way.

America’s Baby-Making Rate Is the Lowest Ever