Decline in U.S. Birth Rates Has Important Implications for U.S. Workforce

Fertility rates in the United States reached another record low in 2017 as birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women under 40 years of age, according to the latest birth statistics released by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The statistics are featured in a new report, “Births: Provisional Data for 2017,” which is based on over 99% of all birth certificates recorded as part of the National Vital Statistics System.

Highlights from the new report include:

  • The provisional number of births for the U.S. in 2017 was 3,853,472, down 2% from 2016 and the lowest number of births in 30 years.
  • The general fertility rate was 60.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down 3% from 2016 and another record low for the U.S. The decline in the rate from 2016 to 2017 was the largest single year decline since 2010.
  • The provisional total fertility rate (TFR) for the United States in 2017 was 1,764.5 births per 1,000 women, down 3% from the rate in 2016 (1,820.5) and the lowest TFR since 1978. The TFR estimates the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes, based on the age-specific birth rate in a given year. The decline in the rates from 2016 to 2017 was the largest single year decline year since 2010.
  • While birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women under 40 years, rates rose for women in their early 40s.
  • The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 was down 7% in 2017 to 18.8 births per 1,000 women; rates declined for both younger (aged 15-17) and older (aged 18-19) teenagers.
  • The cesarean delivery rate increased to 32.0% in 2017, slightly up from 31.9% in 2016; the low-risk cesarean delivery rate increased to 26.0%.
  • The preterm birth rate rose for the third year in a row to 9.93% in 2017.
  • The 2017 rate of low birth weight (8.27%) was one of the highest levels reported since 2006.

According to Mike Maciag, in What America’s “Baby Bust” Means for Public Policy,” the baby bust could carry profound consequences for public policy if fertility rates don’t rebound. Classrooms could see more empty seats. Smaller workforces would likely reduce tax revenues. And demands for social services could shift.”

“Births: Provisional Data for 2017” is available on-line at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/report004.pdf

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