New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the United States birthrate fell again in 2018.
There were 3,788,235 babies born in the U.S. in 2018, a 2 percent decrease from 2017. It’s the lowest number of births in 32 years, and the year also marked a new record low fertility rate.
It’s a demographic pattern that we’ve been seeing for years now, with changing norms around when (or if) it’s time to start a family. In 2016, CDC data showed the first time ever that women in their 30s were having more kids than women in their women in their 20s. And in 2018, the trend continued. According to the CDC, birth rates declined for nearly all age groups except women in their 30s and early 40s.
For both women in their thirties, the birth rate went up by 1 percent. And for moms ages 40 to 44, the birth rate is up 2 percent from 2017. In fact, the birth rate for early forties moms has been rising by about 3 percent every year since 1982.
The overall decline had much to do with the fact that women in their twenties are having fewer babies. The birth rate for moms in their twenties hit a new record low in 2018 – the number of babies born to moms ages 20 to 24 has been going down since 2007.
“Think about it this way, when it comes to looking at the distribution of age of women giving birth, most of them are in their twenties,” CDC report author Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D. told Parents.com. “So that large decline is happening to the principal segment of the population who are producing those births.”
But it’s not just young moms choosing to wait or not have kids at all. A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 71 percent of U.S. parents younger than 50 say it’s “unlikely they will have more children in the future.” And for non-parents under 50, 37 percent reported that “they don’t ever expect to become parents.”
Some reports are interpreting this data as concerning and potentially affecting the country's population and ultimately, workforce and economy.
But given that these numbers seem to ebb and flow over time, it'll be interesting to see if this is a trend that continues. Looking at the specifics—such as the declining teen birth rate and rising rate for moms in their 30s— definitely makes the news seem like less a cause for concern. Instead, the data may simply show women are taking advantage of various family planning options, at any age.
And there are some things to celebrate in the report as well. The data shows more women are getting health care earlier in their pregnancies.
"From 2017 to 2018, the percentage of births that received timely prenatal care in the first trimester increased. Whereas the percentage of pregnancies per births that received late or no care declined," Hamilton said. "So that is certainly good news."