America’s declining birth rate foreshadows some tough financial times ahead

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America’s fertility rate is on the decline.

There were more than 3.7 million estimated births in 2018, down 2% on the year before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics said Wednesday. That’s the lowest level since the 1980s, despite an improving economy.

Here are some ways the falling fertility rate may impact Americans in the years ahead:

The fertility rate could foreshadow an economic downturn

Typically, the birth rate rises with an improving economy, but there are other factors at play. Younger and unmarried women are having fewer babies, more women are delaying marriage as they start their careers after college, and dual-income families find it increasingly expensive to have children, especially with the rising cost of child care.

Couples may be finding it more difficult to pay their bills, and they’re holding off on having more children until their financial situation improves. University of Notre Dame researchers said conceptions dropped ahead of the last three recessions, starting with the recessions of the early 1990s, the early 2000s and the Great Recession from 2008 to 2009.

Families with fewer kids save money, but that may not be enough

Day care to college tuition continue to climb, so fewer couples are having children. However, static wage growth means these couples are still struggling to make ends meet. Consider this sobering number from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: In 2015, a middle-income married couple with a kid spent 16% more than a family in 1960, adjusting for inflation.

Families shouldn’t spend more than 7% of their income on child care, according to a recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services, but there’s no state in the country where parents can follow that recommendation, a 2018 analysis by Child Care Aware of America found.


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