Myth Busted: Falling Birth Rate Not Due to Less Desire To Have Children

Falling Birth Rates Concept

In recent years, many countries have reported a decline in the birth rate, with some reaching record-low levels. This trend is evident across various regions and demographic groups, and has significant implications for the future of populations and economies.

The anxieties young people have about the future may be causing them to delay starting a family.

Despite the worry of some regarding the decline in birth rate in America, a recent study indicates that there is no need to persuade young people to have more children. In reality, the number of children that young Americans intend to have has remained unchanged for several decades.

According to the study, the average number of children desired by women born between 1995 and 1999 was 2.1 when they were aged 20 to 24 years old. This is nearly equivalent to the 2.2 children desired by women born between 1965 and 1969 in the same age range.

Still, the total fertility rate in the United States was 1.71 in 2019, the lowest level since the 1970s.

What’s going on?

The results suggest that today’s young adults may be having a more difficult time achieving their goals of having children, said Sarah Hayford, co-author of the study and professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

The data in the study can’t explain why, but the results fit evidence indicating that young people today don’t think now is a good time for them to have children.

“It’s hard to have children in the United States right now,” said Hayford, who is also director of Ohio State’s Institute for Population Research. “People feel more worried about the future than they might have been several decades ago. They worry about the economy, child care, and whether they can afford to have children.”

Hayford conducted the study with Karen Benjamin Guzzo, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the Carolina Population Center. Their results were recently published in the journal Population and Development Review.

The researchers used data from the National Survey of Family Growth, which has been asking people about their childbearing goals and behaviors for several decades.

The NSFG doesn’t interview the same people each time, but it allowed the researchers to track a group of people born around the same time – a cohort, as scientists call these groups – as they passed through their childbearing years.

They looked at 13 cohorts of women and 10 cohorts of men born between the 1960s and the 2000s. They were all asked how many children they intended to have, if any.

“Americans have been pretty consistent with how many children they say they want to have from the 60s to the 2000s,” Hayford said. “Men generally say they want slightly fewer children than women do, but, like women, their preferred number of children hasn’t changed much.”

The percentage of people who said they don’t plan to have any children has increased, from about 5-8% in the 1960s and 1970s to 8-16% in the 1990s and 2000s. But that alone can’t explain the decline in the number of babies being born.

Hayford noted that the number of unintended births, especially among people in their 20s, has declined in recent decades, which has helped reduce the birth rate.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that people aren’t having as many children as they say they want, especially at earlier ages,” Hayford said. “It may be that they’re going to have those kids when they’re 35, but maybe they won’t.”

For example, the study found some evidence that people are reducing the number of children they say they intend to have as they get older.

“As they age, they may be realizing how hard it is to have kids and raise kids in the United States and they’re saying they only want to have the one child, and don’t want a second one,” she said.

In addition, would-be parents may have more difficulty conceiving as they get older.

Larger economic and social forces are also having an impact on birth rates.

The birth rate declined significantly during the Great Recession that started in 2008, which is a typical response to an economic downturn. However, the birth rate continued to decline even after the recession was over, Hayford said.

This study ended before COVID-19, but the pandemic served as another fertility shock, at least at first.

“It remains to be seen whether fertility will be able to rebound not just from the Great Recession, but from the pandemic as well,” she said.

For those who are concerned about America’s dropping birth rates, this study suggests that there is no need to pressure young people into wanting more kids, Hayford said.

“We need to make it easier for people to have the children that they want to have,” she said. “There are clear barriers to having children in the United States that revolve around economics, around child care, around health insurance.”

Reference: “Evolving Fertility Goals and Behaviors in Current U.S. Childbearing Cohorts” by Karen Benjamin Guzzo and Sarah R. Hayford, 10 January 2023, Population and Development Review.
DOI: 10.1111/padr.12535

The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

20 Comments on "Myth Busted: Falling Birth Rate Not Due to Less Desire To Have Children"

  1. stephen schaffer | February 13, 2023 at 7:48 am | Reply

    This social research has obviously omitted bIack “young Americans” on welfare or soon to be on welfare.

    • Roosevelt Kaitlain | February 14, 2023 at 3:23 pm | Reply

      Are you implying that they also obviously omitted poor white trailer trash and druggies looking for handouts and rich people who want to keep all their money for themselves, and whatever other group you can possibly want to look down on?

  2. “… the study found some evidence that people are reducing the number of children they say they intend to have as they get older.”
    It is said that people gain wisdom with age and experience. Although, I lean towards people just getting wrinkled as they age.

  3. The interpretation of the data seems so far off.

    Economic uncertainty is clearly not the cause. Birth rates this low were pretty much non-existent in all world cultures up until, say, 50-100 years ago. Do you think in 1800, when 95% or more of the world lived in abject poverty by today’s standards (compared with ~10%), people weren’t worried about their economic future? Of course they were. But they still had a lot more children.

    The main cause seems to be so much simpler: effective birth control. The better it gets, the more access we have to it, the lower the birth rates.

  4. What’s in it for men anymore? Not just having children, but in even bothering to get married? With an entire system of society and family court stacked entirely against men so they lose everything — including their own children — just because a toxic woman/partner/wife points her finger at him, and with men having no say in whether the child is born or aborted but still responsible for it for 18 years without ever seeing or knowing his own child…

    The awareness of these things, and so much more, has surged over the past decade alone.

    Time to stop asking only women, and start asking men too. All of this toxicity falls under feminism’s exploitation of men as nonhuman utilities for women’s self-interest, without regard to men’s humanity.

    And this is all just the tip of the iceberg.

  5. Thank goodness! I understand the insanity of growing the world population to the point of collapse to feed the economics of growth and expansion. I’m 70 and have seen world pop grow almost 4x in my life. I have to trust the younger people will figure out a more viable system.

    • Hi I’m a woman and I don’t have to be married or have children to be happy and fulfilled. Plus RVW is gone so women are afraid to have kids now thanks to republicans. And fat women are just as attractive! Men are pigs

  6. It is really fairly simple, why people have fewer children . You are on your own, our society is not just divided, but sliced, diced and priced. Why bring children into that?

  7. It is really simple, you are alone. We, as a society are not just divided. We are sliced, diced and priced. Who wants to bring a child into that?

  8. Sorta right. I want children but the environment is not ideal to say the least. Thanks to politicians and family courts, getting married and having a family is a legal nightmare. A mans only right in this society is to pay bills. I am only a hardworking millionaire. Getting married will surely destroy me. My neck will be in the chopping block as soon as my wife gets bored and files for divorce. I will lose my house and half of what I worked for. Why put up with that mess? Hope is not a strategy. Young men have finally figured out to avoid legal nightmares.

    • And yet they still can’t put it all together. Just people ignoring the real facts and trying to swing everything to meet their agendas.

  9. The population of the U.S. is growing, no need for any action. The world would be a far better place with only 1% of the current world population. There are no similarly sized wild animals with such a large number.

    Politicians need to get away from statistics like gross GDP and look at GDP per capita, adjusted for inflation, or even Gross National Happiness, as in Bhutan.

  10. “The data in the study can’t explain why…”

    Everything in this article after the above line is pure speculation, not science. Maybe it has something to do with young people being afraid of the economic costs of children. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that 3 out of 4 people are now overweight/obese with all the comorbidity factors thereof. Or maybe they’d rather just own beagles. Or maybe none of the above. We don’t know, because there’s no data offering an explanation.

  11. My eyes sparkle when I see kids in my City. God bless the innocent.

  12. The average women in the US are not suitable for marriage, self centered, fat, unwilling to obey, using sex and children as a wet, easily convinced to sell out their husbands for a lonely old age with cats as their only companions. Hence, no sane man will now endure the society of men haters, courts and feminazis arrayed against them and any idea of a nuclear family. Marxists/Leninists/Socialists have won, the family is dead. May God hasten his Kingdom and wipe out this abomination.

  13. Our legal system punishes men for having a family. The risk for men is too great. I advise every guy I know to steer clear of the legal trap. I wish it was different but our governments do not care.

  14. I love how abortion is never mentioned as a factor portaining to low birth rates in the US. There is literally an infant genocide going on but a lot of people have their eyes closed.

  15. Not all women want kids!!!!!! We aren’t your breeding cows!! Go f*** yourself

  16. Different people have different reasons for choosing to create a family or not. Personally I see overpopulation, shortage of resources and a deteriorating political and social environment as reasons to pass on adding to the population. I wouldn’t want to grow up in the world of today. I don’t want to be responsible for launching another generation in the future I fear is coming. After the next major catastrophic event, human or nature caused reduction in population or after we find other planets to colonize, then mankind my have a brighter future and procreation may be in order

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