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A total of 3.78 million American babies joined the world in 2018, the lowest number for all racial groups in more than three decades, and a 2 percent decline over 2017.
Fertility rates also hit record lows. For every 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2018, there were 59 babies born. Compare that to 1970, when the fertility rate was 88 births per 1,000 women. Or 1957, when there were 123 new babies per 1,000 women (in other words, more than double the current rate!).
So what's going on? Experts are puzzled. The economy's strong and most people have jobs, which should mean that more couples are comfortable starting families.
One possible reason for the decline in births is that women are simply waiting longer to have kids than in the past. While the fertility rate dropped last year for women under age 35, it actually increased among women ages 35 to 44.
In other words, the latest data could simply reflect "births that have been postponed," the report's lead author, Brady Hamilton, told Time.
No one knows for sure what's behind the falling birth rates, but there are several other theories out there about why people aren't having as many kids, including:
- High cost of childcare
- Lack of parental leave and other supports for new parents
- Economic hardship due to stagnant wages, student loan debt, medical expenses, and high housing costs in some areas
- Demands of parenting in today's culture
- Pessimism about the future (stemming from politics, climate change, or the general state of world affairs)
- More women prioritizing careers over marriage and childrearing
The CDC data only shows numbers and trends, so explaining the reasons behind them will be up to future researchers.
Meanwhile, if you're bucking the trend and actually trying to get pregnant – or perhaps you're getting ready to have a child – our site has all the information you need.
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