Women had fewer babies in 2017 than they have in the last 40 years

American fertility hits rock bottom: Women had fewer babies in 2017 than they have in the last 40 years, CDC report reveals

  • An average of 1.76 babies were born per woman in 2017, the CDC found 
  • This brought the US's fertility rate to its lowest point since 1976 
  • Some scientists think falling birthrates forebode the human race's decline
  • But the change is driven by drops in pregnancy among teenage, poorer, and single women for whom raising children is often more of a burden

By Natalie Rahhal For Dailymail.com

Published: 18:23 EDT, 16 May 2018 | Updated: 21:45 EDT, 16 May 2018

America's fertility rates have reached a 40-year low, a newly-released CDC report reveals.  

In 2017, the average fertility rate was just 1.76 births per woman. 

As recently as a decade ago, the number of children in each family averaged out to 2.08. 

The total number of live births in 2017 has also fallen to an historic low: just 3.85 million babies were born last year - more than one million fewer than in 2007.  

These new lows are just the latest in a recent cascade of evidence that the world is in a reproductive decline, and the US may be pulling ahead in the race to the bottom.

In 2017, there were an average of 1.76 live births per woman in the US, setting the record lowest fertility rate in the country since 1976
In 2017, there were an average of 1.76 live births per woman in the US, setting the record lowest fertility rate in the country since 1976

In 2017, there were an average of 1.76 live births per woman in the US, setting the record lowest fertility rate in the country since 1976

Earlier declines in fertility were met with some ambivalence, as the change seemed to come as a result of fewer teenagers having babies. 

That trend has continued. The most dramatic declines in birth between 2015 and 2017 were still among the youngest women. 

Teenagers 19 and under had 7.4 fewer babies in 2017 than they had in 2015. 

But declines have bled over into older age groups as well. In fact, only the oldest group of women included in the new statics - those between 35 and 39 - had more babies last year than they did two years ago. 

Some warn that, coupled with signs of failing male fertility and poor sperm qualities, long-running fertility fall-offs bode ominously for the US population - and the world. 

While biological causes have not been established, there are many scientists that have suggests the fertility issues sweeping the world are a bellwether of the human extinction, or at least of the early impacts of climate change on us. 

But on the other side of the dooms-day argument are practical observations about the ways women's desires and abilities to fulfill them have changed. 

Far more women are pursuing higher degrees and busier careers earlier in life now than were doing so in, say, the 1970s.   

This lines up well with new data's finding that fertility decreased in every group of women except the oldest. 

Yet science struggles to put a finger on why this is happening. 

In a November data release, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that while most women were estimated to have under two children in their lifetimes, most would like to have between two and three children.  

But really, Americans do not move too far from the two – maybe three – mindset about kids, Dr Alaka Basu, a development sociologist at Cornell University, told Daily Mail Online in a previous interview. 

Fertility rates dropped in every age group except the oldest women (between 35 and 39, shown in red) between 2015 and 2017, with the sharpest declines in the youngest group (teal)
Fertility rates dropped in every age group except the oldest women (between 35 and 39, shown in red) between 2015 and 2017, with the sharpest declines in the youngest group (teal)

Fertility rates dropped in every age group except the oldest women (between 35 and 39, shown in red) between 2015 and 2017, with the sharpest declines in the youngest group (teal)

'In most parts of the world, two to three children, that's a figure that people give almost mechanically,' she says.

More and more women and couples are choosing to not have children, but 'of the ones that do have children, there are very few that want just one,' Dr Basu says. 

She says that the the numbers are also skewed by the younger generations who may not have or think they want more than one child (or any) now, but are far from the end of their childbearing years. 

Instead, she previously told Daily Mail Online that 'what's happening is that birth rates are actually falling among immigrants,' who, Dr Basu says, have historically had larger families, driving up national averages 'poorer and less educated women.'

Indeed, the new numbers from the CDC show that fertility drops are most dramatic among Hispanic women (18.8 percent). 

Of course not all of these women are immigrants, but Hispanic and black families - for whom fertility declined by 10 percent since 2015 - disproportionately live below the poverty line in the US. 

'It's not bad at all because among poorer women, being single or being a teen mothers is debilitating, so if that is coming down that is good,' Dr Basu suggested. 

This too has played out in recent data. Though it is not yet clear what fertility rates were for unmarried and never-married women in 2017, in 2016, these declined by 14 and 21 percent, respectively. 


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