23 January 2020

United States fertility rate at an all-time low

"During 1940–2018, the expected number of births a woman would have over her lifetime, the TFR, was highest for women during the post-World War II baby boom (births during 1946–1964). In 1957, the TFR reached a peak of 3.77 births per woman. The TFR generally declined for the birth cohort referred to as Generation X from 2.91 in 1965 to 1.84 in 1980. For the birth cohorts referred to as Millennials (Generation Y) and Generation Z, the TFR first increased to 2.08 in 1990 and then remained generally stable until it began to decline in 2007. By 2018, the expected number of births per women fell to 1.73, a record low for the nation. Except for 2006 and 2007, the TFR has been below the level needed for a generation to replace itself (2.10 births per woman) since 1971."
Graph and text from the CDC, via The Washington Post.


  1. This is good. We need fewer people on planet earth.

  2. You can clearly pinpoint when the Pill was made available on this chart.

  3. And just a note the US population is still increasing, but as this chart indicates it's due to net immigration, and not babies being born to existing residents in the US.

  4. i wonder what the rate was earlier, say 1900 to 1940?


    1. Perhaps you could look that up and report back to the class...

    2. Not my querry, but...


      1800 = 7.5 kids. Yikes!

      From article here:


  5. This follows the post "Population trends" from Jan-3. Economies cannot support decreasing populations. Companies in the US need to (voluntarily?) offer better maternity leave to potential parents. This will encourage Women to contribute to the work force longer and they will be more willing to have babies.

    Japan is already suffering from this:

    "Japan has entered a vicious cycle of low fertility and low spending that has led to trillions in lost GDP and a population decline of 1 million people, all within just the past five years."


    Here's a newer article that says about the same thing:


    1. But is there anything intrinsically evil or dangerous about having a declining population and a lower GDP, if the quality of life is maintained at a satisfactory (or improved) level?

    2. As in everything economic-related, it's complex and nobody really knows. :-) My non-professional-opinion is that:

      - Less babies mean less money being spent, which means less schools/diapers/businesses, which means means more unemployment.

      - Less babies mean those babies won't grow up to spend money on houses, cars and Lattes.

      At some point in time, that's fine because less babies means less people looking for jobs, so that would balance out the unemployment. But how long does this cycle take to catch up? Unlike a recession, it could take half a generation.

      The other issue is that if everything is shrinking people won't invest. As an example (that I could quickly find): In 2018 Facebook's rate of growth was (still positive) but 'only' 1.4%. Their stock dropped 20%. Now imagine that rate going negative and now imagine that happening country-wide.

      I think this is an interesting enough question to ask the fine folks at The Indicator or Planet money. I'm going to email them now!

    3. Done.


    4. This question has been on my mind for a long time because years ago I wrote a post something to the effect that U.S. economic growth was slowing down to a worrying level, and it was one of the readers here who challenged me to ask why economies (and virtually everything else) always has to grow, grow, grow.

      It's not unusual for stocks to drop on news of slowing growth as per the Facebook example, but that's because investors factor in an assumption of future growth and bid the P/E ratio up too high, and when those expectations aren't met they sell it off.

      Re your example, fewer babies doesn't a priori mean "less money being spent." It just means less money being spent ON BABIES. The money that would have been spent on babies could be spent on books or orchestra tickets or a vacation at the lake.

      I have no training or background in economics. I'm just winging it here.

    5. Where I was assuming it would be a bad thing, this guy thinks along your original (positive) comment. He summarizes as:

      "The argument I am making here is that population decline will significantly transform the functioning of economies, but in the advanced industrial world it will not represent a catastrophe — quite the contrary. Perhaps the most important change will be that where for the past 500 years bankers and financiers have held the upper hand, in a labor-scarce society having pools of labor to broker will be the key. I have no idea what that business model will look like, but I have no doubt that others will figure that out."


      The Slate seems post-apocalyptic about it:

      "According to a 2008 IIASA report, if the world stabilizes at a total fertility rate of 1.5—where Europe is today—then by 2200 the global population will fall to half of what it is today. By 2300, it’ll barely scratch 1 billion. "


      I still think that the end result will balance out, but the adjustment period will be long and it will be a mess.

  6. Without younger workers, large numbers of older people will be unable to retire, as they won't be able to support themselves. Look at the projections for social security in this country and others. At some point there will nor be enough working people to sustain it.
    Plus, less people means things like housing prices will drop, thus leading top more economic hardships for the middle classes

    1. I don't agree with the premise that in a properly-managed society older people have to work to support themselves.

      Fewer people does not mean that the price of a house would necessarily fall. If the population is falling rapidly, the value of existing houses might fall. But if a population is stable that would not be the case, or if the population is declining slowly and older houses are deteriorating slowly, things would stay in balance.

      I doubt that an economy has to grow to thrive.

  7. many animals produce fewer young when there are not enough resources for their young. humans are 'animals' - maybe they are also sensing that there are fewer resources and therefore are producing fewer, what do they call them, children?


  8. We don't expect people to volunteer as cops or firefighters or road workers out of the goodness of their generous hearts: we pay them. Why not do the same for competent, educated parents? I think for $50K (or even $30K) a year per kid we'd have another baby boom.

    Could even be made contingent on the kid doing well in school, if kakistocracy is a concern.


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