US Fertility Rate TOO LOW, NOT ENOUGH BABIES
The total fertility rate for the United States in 2017 continued to dip below what’s needed for the population to replace itself, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics.
The new report also reveals some major state-by-state differences in fertility rates.
In 2017, among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, total fertility rates ranged from a rate of 2,227.5 births per 1,000 women in South Dakota to 1,421 per 1,000 women in DC, a difference of 57%, according to the report, published Thursday.
Overall, the total fertility rate for the United States in 2017 was 1,765.5 per 1,000 women, which was 16% below what is considered the level needed for a population to replace itself: 2,100 births per 1,000 women, according to the report.
The total fertility rate has been declining steadily for seven years, but the numbers for 2017 represent the biggest drop in recent history. The rate for 2016 was 1,820.5; for 2015, 1,843.5; and for 2014, 1,862.5.
The new report was based on birth certificate data from 2017, provided to the National Center for Health Statistics through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. The researchers took a close look at state-by-state data and total fertility rates. Rates were measured as estimates of the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes, given what birth rates were by age for that year.
The researchers found that South Dakota, with a rate of 2,227.5, and Utah, with a rate of 2,120.5, were the only states with a total fertility rate above replacement level in 2017.
For instance, between 2007 and 2017, total fertility rates in the United States fell 12% in rural counties, 16% in suburban counties and 18% in large metro counties, according to a separate CDC data brief released in October.
The report also showed differences in total fertility rates by race: Among non-Hispanic white women, no states had a fertility rate above the replacement level; among non-Hispanic black women, 12 states did; and among Hispanic women, 29 states did.
For non-Hispanic white women, the highest total fertility rate was in Utah, at 2,099.5, and the lowest in the District of Columbia, at 1,012.
Among non-Hispanic black women, the highest total fertility rate was in Maine, at 4,003.5, and the lowest in Wyoming, at 1,146.
For Hispanic women, the highest total fertility rate was in Alabama, at 3,085, and the lowest in Vermont, at 1,200.5, and Maine, at 1,281.5.
The total fertility rate for the United States has been on the decline for a while, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, who was not involved in the new report.
“We have been seeing fertility rates go down, and I think it has a lot to do with women and men, couples in particular, having much more control over their reproductive lives,” Benjamin said.
Additionally, provisional data on births that the CDC published in May noted that the nationwide total fertility rate “has generally been below replacement since 1971.”
The CDC offered no explanation for why the American fertility rate is dropping so precipitously.
Experts say the decline isn’t due to a single cause, but rather a combination of several factors, including changing economics, delays in childbirth by women pursuing jobs and education, the greater availability of contraception, and a decline in teen pregnancies.
The trend seen in the United States is also seen in much of the developed world, including Western Europe, said Dr. John Rowe, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. One important factor driving this is the changing roles of women in society, Rowe said.
“In general women are getting married later in life,” he explained. “They are leaving the home and launching their families later.”
But there’s no guarantee that things will work out as planned.
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