Why Is the U.S. Fertility Rate Plummeting?

American women of all races and socio-economic backgrounds are having fewer children at later ages. This isn’t exactly news — it’s been happening for a while now — but the latest numbers have caused “concern” according to a new analysis in the Washington Post.

The CDC said Wednesday that the total fertility rate — a theoretical figure that estimates the number of births a woman will have in her lifetime — fell by 18 percent from 2007 to 2017 in large metropolitan areas, 16 percent in smaller metro areas and 12 percent in rural areas. A similar downward trend holds for white, black and Hispanic women.

There are a lot of theories out there about why women are having fewer children, most of them centered around the surging professional and academic opportunities for women, as well as the rising costs of raising children and less financial stability for millennials than older generations.

There are other theories as well though, as the Post notes, they tend to be backed more by partisan passion projects than real data. For example, Tucker Carlson has blamed immigration, using some fanciful logic.

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The Post spoke with John Rowe, a professor of health policy and aging at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, who predicted fertility rates will continue to drop but does not see a reason to panic yet. His suggestion was to look to places like Japan and Germany, where investments in education have helped maximize a smaller workforce to boost an aging populace. In other words, younger generations may have to be more productive to make up for what they lack in sheer numbers.

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