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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Declining Birth Rates in the U.S.


The U.S. birthrate plunged last year to a record low, with the decline being led by immigrant women hit hard by the recession, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

The overall birthrate decreased by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010, with a much bigger drop of 14 percent among foreign-born women. The overall birthrate is at its lowest since 1920, the earliest year with reliable records. The 2011 figures don’t have breakdowns for immigrants yet, but the preliminary findings indicate that they will follow the same trend.

The decline could have far-reaching implications for U.S. economic and social policy. A continuing decrease could challenge long-held assumptions that births to immigrants will help maintain the U.S. population and create the taxpaying workforce needed to support the aging baby-boom generation.
... “We’ve been assuming that when the baby-boomer population gets most expensive, that there are going to be immigrants and their children who are going to be paying into [programs for the elderly], but in the wake of what’s happened in the last five years, we have to reexamine those assumptions,” he said. “When you think of things like the solvency of Social Security, for example . . . relatively small increases in the dependency ratio can have a huge effect.”

The average number of children a U.S. woman is predicted to have in her lifetime is 1.9, slightly less than the 2.1 children required to maintain current population levels.
The article goes on to indicate that while birth rates tend to rebound after economic downturns (they seem overly optimistic that we are coming out of our "downturn"), it also notes that there are some shifts that suggest that the rebound will be more mild this time, including lower illegal immigration rates, better access to birth control, and more immigrants wanting smaller families.

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