More American adults say they do not expect to have children according to a new poll.
The Pew Research Center found that 44% of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it is not too likely, or not at all likely, that they will have children someday.
This is an increase from 2018, when 37% of respondents said they shared this sentiment. The survey was conducted Oct. 18-24 and involved 3,866 U.S. adults ages 18 to 49.
Of the 56% of respondents who said they did not want kids, the greatest number (19%) cited medical reasons. Another 17% gave financial reasons, 15% said they lacked a partner, and 10% cited their partner’s age. About 9% blamed the state of the world and 1 in every 20 said they intended to be childless because of environmental reasons, including global warming.
“Among adults under 40 who are already parents, about one-quarter don’t expect to have more children due to the financial cost involved, while three in 10 say they’re too old,” per Bloomberg.
The fertility rate in the U.S., which has steadily declined for years, took a particularly hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with heightened public health concerns and economic challenges, the country experienced its biggest drop in births since 1974. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded that the number of babies born in America declined by 4% to approximately 3.6 million.
With the advent of new technology, hygiene standards, medical care, and improved education, the national fertility rate slowly declined from 7 children per one woman’s lifetime to an average of 2 in the 1940s. The total number of births climbed between 1946 and 1964, known as the “Baby Boomer Generation” following World War II. In the 1960s, the birth rate climbed to 3.2. Baby boomers presently account for 20% of the U.S. population.
The national fertility rate was just 1.77 in 1980. While it subsequently rose, the national birth rate has been on the decline again since 2010. At its lowest in 2019, the country had a fertility rate of 1.7. America’s birth rate was 1.78 in 2020, indicating a growth rate of 0.06%.
As a result of the U.S. lockdowns, an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 fewer babies were born in 2020.
Generally, women who choose to delay or forego having children for educational or professional reasons play the biggest role in declining national fertility. It is expected that millennial women will have fewer children on average than generations before them.
Lyman Stone, an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that while environmental factors affecting fertility, such as lead exposure, should be addressed, it would not solve the problem.
Neither would “a campaign to alter Americans’ ideals or desires for children,” Stone said. “This trend cannot be reversed with ‘technological’ or ‘technocratic’ solutions.”
He added: “Americans already report high desired fertility, and, indeed, fertility desires are already naturally rising. Americans want to have more children than they are actually having, even among young women.”
In his report titled “Declining fertility in America,” Stone contends the barriers to having children must be removed to improve the national fertility rate. This includes addressing rapidly rising housing costs, student loans that inhibit young homeownership and the changing social and cultural expectations of parents and parenting.
Fertility rates are also on the decline in other nations across the world, including Britain, Canada, France, and Australia. None had fertility higher than 1.9 in 2018.
The implication of a low fertility rate has been described as a “demographic time bomb” by some experts.
“In coming years, lower fertility rates could have profound economic consequences, with employers lacking sufficient workers to grow the economy. And with fewer young workers paying into Social Security and Medicare, these safety-net programs will be in trouble,” reports The Week. “Nearly 30 percent of the world’s countries have officially adopted pro-natalist policies to encourage their citizens to have kids.”
The “replacement rate” — or the number of children an average woman has in her lifetime to maintain a population — is 2.1