Ladies (and gents) we have a problem; we need to have more babies.
According to the Economist, Americans are not having enough babies to maintain the current U.S. population. The rate is projected to be at a 25-year low this year, with the birth rate at 1.9 births per woman. Two births per woman are necessary to keep the population size stable.
One on hand, this low birth rate is a cause for celebration. It indicates that women have better access to birth control and that more women than ever are putting off childbearing in favor of other endeavors, such as pursuing higher education or their careers. This low rate of births could be another sign that women can really “have it all” and that all doesn’t include tons of children.
One the other hand, if the U.S. population continues to shrink, there are legitimate concerns for the future, especially when it comes to public welfare institutions like Social Security. Social Security is based off of principle that the younger working generation pays for the maintenance of the older, retired generation. However, if there are more retired people (i.e. old) than working (i.e. young) people, clearly this system can’t work.
American fertility reached its most recent peak in 2007, but has quickly been declining since then; especially since the recession. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 22% of men and women ages 18-34 said they are delaying having a baby due to the weak economy.
Having a baby is not easy –– or cheap –– and for many Americans, the decision when to have a child or the number of children to have may simply be a matter economics. The average cost to raise a child is around $300,000 and that doesn’t even include the hefty $200,000 college tuition payments they’ll be making if their child wants to have a career.
There is no clear answer as to why Americans are having fewer babies; the cause is too complicated and variable. Yet one thing is clear; if Americans don’t start having more kids soon the British and the French will overtake the world, and that’s just not something we can let happen.