For everybody who has been panicking about the US turning into 'Idiocracy', well...the movie got at least one thing right.
Smart Americans - well, all Americans but particularly those with college degrees - are having fewer kids. According to figures released Tuesday by the CDC and cited by WSJ, the number of live births in the US last year dropped to 3.8 million, the lowest level in 32 years. That brought the birth rate down to 1.7, a record low and well below the so-called "rate of replacement" of 2.1.
With this latest decline, the number of births in the US has fallen during 10 of the last 11 years.
Younger and unmarried women have seen the largest fertility declines in recent years while birth rates for women in their 30s and for those who are married have generally increased. In 2018, only women ages 35-44 saw an increase in birthrates, while rates for all other age groups declined.
The drop has been particularly dramatic among teens (15-19), with the birth rate for that demographic falling to 17.4 births per 1,000 women, that's down 72% from a peak of 61.8 in 1991.
And that trend shows no sign of reversing. Demographers hope that as more millennials age into their 30s, the birth rate will begin dropping again, but since women who wait to have kids typically have fewer of them, the odds are stacked against them.
"We see these continuing trends: births to older moms increasing, births to younger moms going down," said Brady Hamilton, a statistician/demographer with NCHS who co-wrote the report.
To be sure, the nation's birthrate hides stark disparities between states. The lowest - in Vermont - is 8.7 births per 1,000 people. The highest is in Utah, at 15.77.
The US birth rate is still higher than some of its rivals in Europe and Japan (which has the lowest birth rate in the developed world).
One of the factors cited by the CDC as a reason for the decline is that more women are delaying childbirth to go to college and have careers.
Long-acting contraceptives are another factor that's helping drive down births.
"It’s really remarkable, not something that we’ve seen over the last century," Prof. Buckles said of the changing fertility patterns.
Contrary to expectations, the stronger economic security and independence of women has prompted them to have fewer children, not more - since fewer women want to interrupt their careers to have kids.