US fertility falls to record low, fewest births in 32 years

By | May 15, 2019

The U.S. fertility rate fell to a record low in 2018 and the number of births declined for a fourth consecutive year, the National Center for Health Statistics reported Wednesday.

The nation’s total fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman would be expected to give birth to in her lifetime given current birth rates, reached a record low of 1.73, a decline of 2%. That is below the threshold for maintaining current population levels, 2.1 children for every mother.

The number of births, meanwhile, fell to 3,788,235, a decline of 2% and the lowest in 32 years.

The provisional data released Wednesday suggests that the U.S., which once enjoyed unusually high fertility for a rich nation, is becoming more like Japan and rich countries in Europe, which have long seen low fertility and, in some cases, lost population. U.S. fertility rates have now been below the replacement rate for a decade, after a drop that coincided with the financial crisis.

The steepest decline in births was among teens between 15 and 19 years of age, who gave birth to 179,607 children, a drop of 9%. Although teen childbearing is still relatively high in the U.S. compared to other countries, it has fallen sharply in recent years, a trend researchers attribute to greater abstinence and greater use of birth control.

The lower rate of teen childbearing was slightly offset by higher births among women aged 40 to 44, which rose 2% to 117,339. Childbearing in that age group has been rising gradually since 1982.