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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Birth Dearth, 2024

Many posts have discussed demographic trends, especially the decline of births and the aging of the population.

Jonathan V. Last at The Bulwark:

Let me give you the shortest of possible version of the fertility story:
  • Fertility rates began falling in the late 1960s, first in Europe, Asia, and North America.
  • That pattern has been replicated in nearly every country. The global average is now below replacement level.
  • If this trend persists, eventually global population numbers will contract.
  • The problem with population contraction is not the total number of people, but rather the age structure created by contracting populations.
  • Simply put: When fertility rates are below replacement and population begins to shrink, societies wind up with more old people than young people. Which is a recipe for economic stagnation, geopolitical destabilization, and humanitarian tragedy.

 Tim Henderson at Stateline:

Births continued a historic slide in all but two states last year, making it clear that a brief post-pandemic uptick in the nation’s birth numbers was all about planned pregnancies that had been delayed temporarily by COVID-19.

Only Tennessee and North Dakota had small increases in births from 2022 to 2023, according to a Stateline analysis of provisional federal data on births. In California, births dropped by 5%, or nearly 20,000, for the year. And as is the case in most other states, there will be repercussions now and later for schools and the workforce, said Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California who follows birth trends.

“These effects are already being felt in a lot of school districts in California. Which schools are going to close? That’s a contentious issue,” Johnson said.

In the short term, having fewer births means lower state costs for services such as subsidized day care and public schools at a time when aging baby boomers are straining resources. But eventually, the lack of people could affect workforces needed both to pay taxes and to fuel economic growth.

Nationally, births fell by 2% for the year, similar to drops before the pandemic, after rising slightly the previous two years and plummeting 4% in 2020.

“Mostly what these numbers show is [that] the long-term decline in births, aside from the COVID-19 downward spike and rebound, is continuing,” said Phillip Levine, a Wellesley College economics professor.

To keep population the same over the long term, the average woman needs to have 2.1 children over her lifetime — a metric that is considered the “replacement” rate for a population. Even in 2022 every state fell below that rate, according to final data for 2022 released in April. The rate ranged from a high of 2.0 in South Dakota to less than 1.4 in Oregon and Vermont.