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Commentary: Number of births in the US lowest in 30 years but nothing alarming there

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SOUTH CAROLINA: The US Centre for Disease Control reported last month that the number of births in the United States is down 2 per cent – “the lowest number in 30 years".

These reports were met with surprise and alarm.

However, this recent decline fits with global trends and isn’t unprecedented in US history. As a demographer who studies fertility trends, what strikes me as anomalous is not the recent drop, but the previous high fertility “bubble".


The US maintained surprisingly high fertility rates for a long time.

After the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s, fertility in the US and other wealthy countries fell during the 1970s. However, US steadily rebounded, even as rates in most other wealthy countries stayed low or fell even lower.

By 1990, there were 2.1 children per woman in the US, compared to 1.4 in Spain and 1.5 in Germany, for example.

This gap between US and other developed countries baffled demographers through the 1990s and early 2000s.

Public policy choices couldn’t explain it. The US maintained its high fertility rate even while being comparatively weak on “pro-fertility” policies like family leave and financial support for parents.

Several factors propped up the fertility rate. The US had a steady flow of immigrants from higher-fertility countries. It also had a persistently high unintended pregnancy rate; a flexible labour market that allowed parents to exit and re-enter the workforce; and a strong, stable........

© Channel NewsAsia