Maybe continued economic uncertainty is forcing more Americans to make the rational, deliberate decision to put off the expenses of child rearing. Maybe the recession just makes it harder to feel freaky.
Whatever the precise psychological explanation, the ongoing economic malaise in this country is closely related to a declining birth rate, according to new research by the Pew Research Center. (A big shout-out to Steve Rhode, founder of www.getoutofdebtguy.com, for sending this interesting report our way.) In 2007, the year before the mortgage bubble burst and all economic hell broke loose, we welcomed 4,316,233 baby Americans into the world.
Since then, average per capita income has dropped more than $1,000 a year, to below $40,000. The number of births has dropped apace, to just barely over 4 million in 2010. The overall fertility rate has dropped from nearly 70 births per thousand women to under 65.
“A sharp decline in fertility rates in the United States that started in 2008 is closely linked to the souring of the economy that began about the same time,” according to the report, written by Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at Pew.
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The correlation between money-makin’ and baby-makin’ holds up in a state-by-state analysis, Pew found. North Dakota, which had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country in 2008, was the only state to experience a slight increase in the number of births the following year.
Nevada, which has been absolutely hammered by the housing bubble burst, saw its birthrate drop by 8.6% between 2007 and 2009. Arizona’s birthrate plummeted by 9.8 percent during the same period.
The recession hurt some racial and ethnic groups harder than others, and that’s reflected in their birthrates, Pew found. The employment rate among Hispanics dropped at twice the race of whites from 2007 to 2008. The effect was magnified in birth rates, which dropped by nearly six percent among Hispanics, four times the decline among by white families.
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