U.S. fertility is not recovering from the financial crisis — and demographers aren’t sure why.
The fertility rate fell to a record low 62.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2013, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The total number of births, at 3.96 million, inched up by a mere 4,000 from 2012, the first increase since the financial crisis. But the total fertility rate, or TFR, the average number of children a woman would have during her child-bearing years, fell to just 1.86, the lowest rate in 27 years. TFR is considered the best metric of fertility. A TFR of 2.1 represents a stable population, with children replacing parents as they die off.
Demographers expected the fertility rate to fall during recession, as financially strapped families put off childbearing. But what has surprised some demographers is both the depth of the decline and the fact that fertility has continued to drop even over the course of the country's five years of slow but steady recovery. The rate has fallen steadily each year since 2007, when it stood at 2.1 percent.
... One foreseen factor behind the dropoff in childbearing is the rapid decline in Hispanic-American fertility.The demographers quoted in the article claim that it is all a mystery. However, as you read more of the demographic literature, it is not as mysterious as it seems. Population decline follows industrialization, accelerated by access to birth control. The simple explanation is that people have children when it is economically beneficial. The large explosion in population growth following the advent of modern medicine and agriculture was bound to slow down.
For several decades, high Hispanic childbearing has been driving U.S. population growth. White fertility has been under the 2.1 replacement rate for decades, and ranged from 1.7 to 1.9 in the 2000s. The TFR for black Americans first fell below 2.1 in the early 2000s.
But the number of children per Hispanic-American woman has plummeted from just under three in 1990 and 2.7 as recently as 2008 to 2.19 in 2012, just above the replacement rate.
That decline has been mirrored in other Hispanic countries. Mexico’s TFR has fallen precipitously, from 6.7 in 1970 to 2.2 in 2012, according to the World Bank. A similar decline has taken place in El Salvador, and to a lesser extent Honduras and Guatemala, all three prominent countries of origin for American Hispanics.
Another simple explanation is that, despite the government telling us that we are in a recovery, it is not a recovery for most people. Recovery for the population requires job growth, which is not happening.
With falling demographics, the U.S. has resorted to what Europe has done--importing cheap immigrant labor--for political reasons as much as any actual labor need. Thus, the current flood of "children" into the U.S. Even here, though, we can look to Europe for our future. Europe imported Middle-Eastern and African workers en masse in the 1970s to fuel economic expansion, but when that expansion was over, it was left with a massive population of disaffected youth. The result is rampant crime (much of it not even included in statistics).
I see something similar happening in the U.S., but on a grander scale. At least Europe has the Mediterranean Sea--we have nothing but hundreds of miles of largely unpatrolled fence. At this point, with the open invitation to children, we have skipped importing workers to just importing disaffected youth.