Recession’s toll on birth rates: fewer Americans having babies

A few days ago, I posted a link to an AJC article about Georgians postponing major decisions because of the shaky economy.

Well it’s hard to imagine a decision that’s more major than having children — and look at the toll the recession took through 2010.

This graph is from Calculated Risk:

As you can see, declines in births are pretty common during recessions, although there is obviously a lot of noise in the data. And this graph covers a period in which the population increased dramatically — much of that increase was due to increased longevity and immigration; birth rates have been falling for many years within some groups in the U.S.

Note the huge spike in births after WWII — the baby boom. And note the sharp increase in births in the mid-1970s; to some degree, that increase was due to the baby boomers having babies, although the increase was minor compared to the spike after WW2.

The number of births has been declining for a few years (the latest data is from 2010), and now we’re at a level first hit 60 years ago.

There are obviously a number of economic effects that this will have down the road. The average age of Americans will increase; demands on programs like Social Security and Medicare might accelerate more than previously estimated; the workforce will be ever more strained to support benefits for seniors. If you’re worried about overpopulation, declining numbers of births could be good news — but the trend is clearly a result of the recession and the lower number of births will have negative economic consequences for decades.