The American fertility rate is no longer declining

by on September 6, 2013 at 5:47 am in Current Affairs, Data Source, Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

The sharp decline in the country’s fertility rate during the economic downturn has come to an end, federal data show, as an improving economy encouraged Americans to resume having babies.

The number of babies born in the United States in 2012 remained flat, the first time in five years that the number did not significantly decline, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The leveling off capped a 9 percent decline in the fertility rate from 2007 to 2011, a drop that demographers say began after the recession took hold and Americans started feeling less secure about their economic circumstances.

By the way, economics really does seem to be a factor in these changes:

…the only state to show a slight increase in fertility between 2008 and 2009 was North Dakota, which had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

The teen birth rate is falling, which is further good news.  Here is more.

Frederic Mari September 6, 2013 at 7:53 am

By the way, economics really does seem to be a factor in these changes…

Sorry but d’oh?!

Who thought it didn’t? Babies are expensive items! Look also at Russia/the CIS after the collapse of the Soviet Union… Period of economic hardships and great insecurity of course weight on the decision to have a baby or not.

If anything, what I find amazing, is the resilience of the American consumer/parent…

The Anti-Gnostic September 6, 2013 at 10:34 am

Babies are expensive if it’s your own money. K-selection.

If it’s OPM, they’re not. r-selection.

The welfare state ends or it will be ended.

Jack Crassus September 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Idiocracy will be seen as the most prophetic film of our time

Max September 7, 2013 at 8:37 am

You overlook new IQ-enhancing technologies that will undoubtedly be used before then.

Marian Kechlibar September 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Will they? I would expect obedience-enhancing technologies instead.

8 September 6, 2013 at 7:54 am

The factor is social mood, it affects economics and fertility.

Benny Lava September 6, 2013 at 8:09 am

Well I knew it. And now you know it. So how soon before the pundicracy knows it?

Andrew' September 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

So, how is the government making this pro-cyclical?

Z September 6, 2013 at 8:52 am

When it comes to fertility rates, the economy is an obvious factor. Like others, I’m a bit surprised that this is news to anyone. There’s also the social conditions of women. Muslim fertility rates have been dropping like a stone as the religious tensions in Muslim countries rise. Religiosity is also a very big factor. Higher church attendance correlates to higher fertility rates. Again, look at Poland, Quebec, Turkey, Iran and so on. Even in the US, church attendance strongly correlates to fertility.

The key metrics for America are the over all fertility rate, which remains below replacement and the fertility rate by demographic group. When the most popular baby name for boys is Mohamed, as it is in Britain, your future is going to be a bit different than if it is Jack or Harry. That’s true. of course, if you accept observable reality and five thousand years of human history as a guide. Others may have other metrics less tethered to reality.

j r September 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

Maybe. Maybe not. America was first settled by religious and intolerant people, but the political culture was able to override the religious culture.

This sort of demographic forecasting about the future is based on the flawed idea that people grow up to be just like their parents or that one ethnic or religious group is somehow incapable of change.

Z September 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

And there we have an untethered to reality perspective.

j r September 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Right. This is from the same person who said that there has never been a Muslim country that doesn’t have an Islamist government.

I guess by reality you mean “in accordance with my pre-existing stereotypes.”

Z September 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm

More unreality. I never said any such thing. I have accurately pointed out that Muslims, when given the chance, vote for Muslim parties. That’s simply a fact no one can dispute, no matter how delusional and uninformed they may be about the world beyond their little sewing circle.

So maybe you should work on that projection problem before spouting off nonsense in public.

j r September 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

“Z August 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm
Other than displaying your ignorance of western history, I’m not sure what the point is here. There are no examples of Islamic countries adopting anything but Islamic government, when given the chance.

- See more at:

You can keep throwing this reality concept around as if it means something, but this is exactly what you said and it is factually incorrect.

vanderleun September 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

“‘REALITY’ — Over at Marginal Revolution an hysterical homosexual took me to task for using the term in a post about religion and fertility rates. I’m assuming he is a homosexual due to the overwrought use of the word “intolerant” when discussing religion. It is, as they say, a dog whistle. Pointing out observable facts sent him racing to the fainting couch.” LA Z

Jack Crassus September 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Modern political liberalism is best viewed as an atheist branch of Calvinism. At least, once you begin to see it that way various behaviors make sense and become more predictable.

j r September 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Moldbug? That’s a joke, right?

Z September 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm

It is certainly a religion. The fellow upset with my pointing out the obvious is an example of an adherent becoming irrational when tenets of his faith are contradicted.

j r September 9, 2013 at 11:09 am

Upset? That’s a bit of an assumption, no? I’m just pointing that you made an incorrect factual statement.

The five countries with the largest Muslim population are Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bagladesh and Nigeria. Of those five, only Pakistan currently has an Islamist party in power and they just took power in this year’s election from the Pakistan People’s Party.

Also, I’m not a “modern political liberal.”

JWatts September 6, 2013 at 11:05 am

“The key metrics for America are the over all fertility rate, which remains below replacement and the fertility rate by demographic group.” The US fertility rate is only a little below replacement rate and was at replacement rate from 1990 to 2008. So a drop for a 5 year period certainly isn’t catastrophic.

And if you look at it by demographics, it’s still not really surprising. The only major group that is well below replacement rate is American-Indian.

Z September 6, 2013 at 11:47 am

If you break it down by region, you see some parts of the country are not pulling their weight in the baby making department. Unsurprisingly, the least religious parts of the nation have the lowest fertility rates. It is the one truism that applies across all cultures. The Turks and Persians are obsessed with this apparent connection. It is far more subtle in the West, but big litters have been decidedly low class along with overt religiosity.

Careless September 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm

1.8 and 1.7 are “Well below replacement rate”

John September 9, 2013 at 12:05 am

“When the most popular baby name for boys is Mohamed, as it is in Britain, your future is going to be a bit different than if it is Jack or Harry.”

What’s your cite? suggests that Jack and Harry are and #2 and #1 respectively, and Muhammad is at 57.

(It’s also worth noting that Muhammad is an overwhelmingly more popular name among the Muslim demographic than Harry is among the English one.)

Claude Emer September 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

Did anyone think of a correlation with immigration? What else was in sharp decline during the recession? What group has the largest fertility rate? The article seems to try to avoid this link, going instead for
a theory that people just decided to stop having sex during the recession as if most people even plan their pregnancies…

Andrew' September 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

If you want to stop having sex, have a baby.

Steve Sailer September 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm

In the U.S., the most fertile large group are recent illegal immigrants. See:

How High Is Hispanic / Mexican Fertility in the U.S.? Immigration and Tempo Considerations, Emilio A. Parrado of the U. of Pennsylvania’s Population Studies Center

The Bush Administration’s policies of fairly open borders and promotion of zero downpayment mortgages led to a spike in Hispanic fertility in 2006-2007. But, when the subprime-driven construction bubble burst, illegals came in much smaller numbers and Hispanic fertility has dropped like a rock during the Obama years.

msgkings September 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm

So, Steve, don’t you have to stand up and applaud the huge drop in both illegal immigration and recent Hispanic fertility?

I mean, isn’t this exactly what you have been stumping for all these years? Champagne time?

Steve Sailer September 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm
Marie September 6, 2013 at 9:37 am

Everyone just ran out of their horded stockpile of contraceptive pills. Thankfully, ACA will swoop in January 1st and restock everyone.

collin September 6, 2013 at 10:02 am

I would be the opposite of the fertility experts that they may go back up again. Right now birth rates are stable but it is because of older married women are having another child. So this reality of older women children will diminish in the number of babies born.

The move to more flexibile part time jobs (like 30 hours a week with mixture of graveyard, morning and late shifts) is going have impact family formation long term as having children is going to negatively effect women’s (and men) wages. Couples with children are going to have a harder time to compete within the firm for hours (This is what is happening at retail stores that my wife worked at and best and most flexible get more hours.) because they don’t have schedule flexibility. Look at Germany’s fertility as a guideline.

In general, modern robot future seems to be the anti-Malthus society. Now, society production are enormously large to distirbute to everyone but the job market is so competitive that people can no longer afford children.

steve September 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

North Dakota had a huge influx of young people working in their new energy business. I suspect much of the increase is due to these young workers. While this is indirectly due to the economy, it is a second order effect. You add a lot of people of prime child-bearing age, you get more children.

Careless September 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm

If they weren’t adjusting for the population age mixes, they should be taken out and shot.

Dangerman September 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

I really wish articles like this were more clear about the difference between “birth rate” (x per 1,000 women of childbearing age) and the more accurate representation “(total) fertility rate” (x babies per woman over total lifetime).

The birth rate is subject to cohort effects, total fertility rate is not.

Marie September 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Wondered about that, too.
Also wonder on these if there’s not a more clear way to distinguish between being unable to procreate and being unwilling to. Infertility as a medical issue is its own factor.

Are more people able to conceive, because the infertility issues are diminishing?
Or are more people conceiving, because they choose to (or don’t actively and effectively choose not to)?
Or are the same number of people conceiving, and more of them choose not to carry to term (or support the woman they’ve impregnated doing so)?

Really big difference between the three.

Dangerman September 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Right. “fertility” means very different things to a demographer and to a biologist.

As for the cause of the increase in births (or lack of decrease), I can’t find the report this NYTimes article is referencing… but based on my general understandings, I would say: (1) immigrants, and (2) more babies to people who already have one or more, in accordance with the general “clustering” of lifestyles in the modern era.

Dangerman September 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm

darn it, wrong “reply” button.

Why don’t all comments work like Reddit?

Yog Sothoth September 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Why is this good news? Shouldn’t we want lower population to reduce the speed of climate change?

Steve Sailer September 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm

If anybody was serious about limiting carbon emissions to ease climate change, they’d call for restricting immigration. American residents average four times the annual per capita carbon emissions of Mexicans, ten times that of Central Americans, and 70 times that of Haitians.

Steve Sailer September 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Actually, most racial/ethnic groups’ total fertility rates continued to fall from 2011 to 2012, especially Hispanics. (The overall decline was less because the population balance is shifting toward Hispanics, who still have a notably higher TFR.)

The big exception was Asians, whose Total Fertility Rate went up from 1.71 to 1.77. The NYT attributes this to superstitious Chinese having babies during the “auspicious” Year of the Dragon, but I don’t know I’m starting to think that the Hispanic ascendancy is coming to a close. It was artificially extended by the Bush Bubble of Angelo Mozilo handing out $720,000 subprime mortgages to strawberry pickers, but in the harsh post-Bush era, Asians are the most likely winners.

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