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Why We Can’t Ignore the Lowest Birthrates in US History

Do you know the current birth rate in America today? The U.S. fertility rate fell to the lowest point since record keeping started more than a century ago, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s almost unbelievable.

In 1909, the government began keeping track of what’s called the fertility rate. The general fertility rate is the number of births out of 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44. The U.S. birth rate dipped in 2011 to the lowest ever recorded, led by a plunge in births to immigrant women since the onset of the Great Recession. According to CNN, the first three months of 2016 saw fertility rate in the U.S. fall to its lowest level; 59.8 births per 1,000 women.

While this trend is intriguing, I just read the latest statistic, which stopped me in my tracks.

As of last month, August 2016, America had the lowest birth rate of any point in recorded history. Lower than the Seniors, the Builder Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X or the Millennials. Women are choosing something other than raising children as a path to the life they want.

What Does This Mean?

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There has been a real shift in our view of children and parenting over the last decade. The Millennial Generation is the largest generation in U.S. history, at 80 million strong. (They’re young adults today). Right in the middle of their generation, more children were born in America in 1991 than any other year in recorded history. Today, however, we’ve swung to our lowest fertility and birth rates—just as the largest generation in history steps into the typical age of parenting.

So, why are we not having kids?

1. Couples are choosing careers over kids.

Millions of families now believe they cannot enjoy the standard of living they want without two incomes in the home. Additionally, many couples would say they enjoy a career more than they’d enjoy raising a child—and it’s tough to do both.

2. The economy often restricts couples from having children.

Sometimes the choice not to have children (or to have less children) is not just about the desire for an affluent standard of living. Some couples would say they simply cannot afford to bring another person into their family and provide for them.

3. Many are choosing a single life, instead of a family.

I’ve written before on the growing number of people living and dining alone. While this may lead to lots of new realities, one certain reality is the difficulty of having a child in the home with no caring adult to raise it. Hence, fewer kids.

4. Parenting children is, perhaps, the most taxing task an adult can do.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience and resilience, strength and emotional intelligence—at least if you want to do it well. In today’s world, that’s a trade off many don’t want to make. It’s just hard work.

Can we ponder the various outcomes of this reality?

What This Means to Us . . .

Study the nations around the world that are not replacing the adult population, and you can see trouble ahead. For years, many of us have watched Japan’s birth rate drop—and lead to fears over whether they’ll be enough young people to fund the millions who are retiring, much less the economy’s need to produce. Japan sells more adult diapers than baby diapers. Last year, Germany passed up Japan as the nation with the lowest birth rate. A study, reported by the BBC, says Germany’s birth rate has slumped to the lowest in the world, prompting fears that labor market shortages will damage the economy. Not far behind are Portugal and Italy.

Is America heading in this direction, with a sagging economy already?

In our nation, we are experiencing “two hills and two valleys.” In other words, two generations are very large, while two generations are much smaller. The retiring generation (Boomers) are 76 million strong. They are retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day. Generation X is smaller in size. (This generation started with the birth control pill). Next, the Millennials number 80 million in size, currently the largest generation in American history. But today, Generation Z is much smaller again, numbering about 59 million, depending on what year you believe their generation began.

Globally, the nations that have the highest birth rates are developing nations. Most of them can be found in Africa, with Niger at the top of the list. So, countries that are economically developed are not having as many babies. But the poorest seem to be having the most babies—89.7% of people under 30 live in developing economies, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. This could be trouble for our world economy as well as our ability to educate and prepare them to compete in the marketplace.

Our “To Do” List

  1. Let’s be intentional about parenting and educating the children we currently have.
  1. Let’s find ways to help educate and mentor children and families in poor nations.
  1. Let’s find ways (if possible) to live on less and raise larger families very well.
  1. Let’s explore adopting children who need good homes and families.
  1. Let’s see the big picture and make the most of every young person around us.

To be clear, just because the fertility rate is decreasing, it doesn’t necessarily mean the US population is going to shrink. The rate of growth may be slower, but the population is still expected to increase, according to CNN. I am certain, however, that our future depends on how well we parent and educate our children today.


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3 Comments

  1. Lorena Wood on August 31, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Tim, I think it would be good to give resources or for you to deal with the lie that our planet is overpopulated. I know many who point to this as why they are only having one child or non. Also, I believe it would be important to find some statistics on those who homeschool verses those who don’t, and the number of children they raise. As far as I know, homeschool families are the largest population who have the most kids. I think also as the biblical two parent (husband/wife) family unit continues to break down and is not supported, the birth rate will continue to be a challenge or those we do raise, will not be of the quality we want. Our nation is one of many idolatries and repentance is truly needed. May we start with our family and cry out on behalf of others to turn 100% to God.

  2. Kristi Turner on September 15, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    I am so horrified by your headline “1. Women are choosing careers over kids.” I am simply in shock that an article about choices couples make is turned to “women choosing careers over kids. Should you not say women and men as a couple choosing not to have children. Would you ever say “Men are choosing careers over kids” so if a man chooses to work he is not choosing a career over kids but if a woman chooses to work she is choosing careers over kids. You must be aware of the power of your words and the insane blame you just placed on women. It is no wonder so many women struggle in our society when things like this are posted. You have a key position to be a positive influence on young men AND women and to insult women in this article is just so disappointing.

    • Tim Elmore on September 20, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Kristi—thanks for your comment. You are absolutely right. Couples make the decision to have careers instead of children. I never intended to “blame” a woman solely for this decision. Please forgive me if my tone suggested that. I’ve updated the blog to reflect our discussion.

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Why We Can't Ignore the Lowest Birthrates in US History