- US Birth Rate Continues to Plummet
- “Scientists” Advocate More Population Control
- Uganda Disciplines Marie Stopes International
US Birth Rate Continues to Plummet
Why America’s Birth Rate is Still Tanking: The Cost of Raising a Child and Lost Millennial Wealth
It’s been ten years since the Great Recession ended. Yet, despite robust economic growth and low employment over the past two years, births in the United States have continued to plummet.
Before the Great Recession, the fertility rate—the number of children women have on average during their lifetimes—had been on the rise. But once the recession hit and unemployment rose to 10%, many couples put off having children and birth rates declined.
Demographers and economists had long anticipated the birth rate would rebound when the economy recovered. After all, birth rates in the U.S. have historically fallen during economic downturns and risen during times of economic recovery. But despite a fifty-year low in the unemployment rate, rising earnings and wages, and a robust 2-3% growth in GDP almost every quarter since the start of 2017, birth rates are still falling
Earlier this year, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the birth rate in 2018 had fallen to 59 births per 1,000 women 15 to 44 years of age—the lowest birth rate ever recorded in U.S. history. But before 2018, the 2017 birth rate had been the lowest birth rate ever recorded. And the year before that, the 2016 birth rate had been the lowest. In fact, of the 10 lowest birth rates on record, 9 of them have occurred in the past 9 years.
America’s total fertility rate is also at an all-time low with women on average giving birth to 1.73 children over their lifetimes. This is far below the replacement fertility rate, which is about 2.1 and is the minimum fertility rate needed for the current generation to replace itself without having to be propped up by immigration.
Despite low birth rates, however, preferences for childbearing in the U.S. have not declined.
According to Gallup, Americans on average think 2.7 children is the ideal number of children to have. This is virtually unchanged from the number of children Americans considered ideal back in the 1970s. In fact, Americans’ ideal family size today is larger than it was before the recession started in 2007—and in 2007, the fertility rate had peaked to the highest level on record since 1971.
So if childbearing preferences are not declining, why have birth rates continued to decline in spite of robust economic growth and low unemployment rates? As it turns out, there is no single driving reason why birth rates have fallen. The decline in the birth rate is the result of a variety of factors—including economic factors, postponement of marriage, demographic changes in the marriage market, and changing ideas on marriage—all of which happen to be converging right about now.
Today we’ll discuss the economic reasons behind the falling birth rate. Next week we’ll talk about the cultural and demographic reasons behind this trend.
Lost Millennial Wealth
Perhaps the most potent reason driving the falling birth rate is that many adults, particularly young adults in their prime marrying-age years, are finding it difficult to afford having children or are finding it difficult to get their finances in order so that they can have a family. Nowhere has this effect had more impact than on Millennials who now make up the bulk of women in their childbearing years.
Financial concerns have weighed particularly heavily on Millennials. They were the generation hardest hit by the Great Recession. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Millennials born in the 1980s accumulated 34% less wealth than they would have had the recession not occurred. By comparison, adults born in the 1970s lost 17% of their wealth and those born during the 1960s lost only 11%.
Many Millennials faced high employment and underemployment early in their careers. They weren’t able to accumulate as much income or savings as prior generations when they were entering the workforce. For some young adults, this has made it more difficult for them to achieve enough financial stability to start a family. As adults aged 20-34 years of age make up the bulk of childbearing in the U.S., lower birth rates among the Millennial generation has directly translated into falling birth rates overall.
For one, wages and earnings for young adults in their prime marrying years are less than they were a generation ago. Inflation-adjusted median weekly earnings for adults 25-34 years old today are lower than what they were in 1979 and during the early 2000s. Meanwhile, wages for the workforce overall has increased—an indication that while older adults are still seeing their real wages rise, adults in their prime marrying years are being left behind.
Today’s young adults are not only making less than they used to, they are also making less compared to the workforce overall. During the early 1980s, on average, adults aged 25-34 years made more than the overall workforce. They made close to what most adults over the age of 25 made. But during the late 1980s, median earnings for adults 25-34 years of age dropped below the workforce average. And since 2002, the wage gap has been steadily widening. Today, median usual weekly earnings for adults 25-34 years of age are almost 9% lower than the workforce average.
Due to high unemployment and slow wealth accumulation early on in their careers, Millennials are at risk for becoming a “lost generation” in terms of wealth, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. This has likely forced Millennials to put off milestones like getting married, buying a house, and having children.
The loss of wealth accumulation has affected low-income, lower socioeconomic, and minority young adults in particular. The little savings men and women in these demographic groups were able to accumulate were often spent on supporting aging parents or paying for basic living expenses rather than on things like education, transportation, and job training which could have helped to advance their careers.
Additionally, when it comes to getting a college education, young adults today (and their parents) have faced skyrocketing tuition costs. According to tuition statistics tracked by College Board, the inflation-adjusted cost of tuition at four-year private colleges has risen by 134% since the 1986-1987 academic year. At public colleges, the rise in tuition has been even steeper, increasing by 215% since the 1986-1987 academic year.
Meanwhile, wages have not kept pace. Since 1986, real median household income has only increased by 15.7%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The steep and rising cost of college education has forced young adults to take on unprecedented amounts of student debt. The amount of outstanding student debt nationwide is now $1.48 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Student debt is now greater than the amount of debt Americans owe through either credit card debt or auto loan debt. And since 2011, student debt has been rising at a faster rate than either credit card debt or auto loan debt.
So it’s likely that rapidly rising in student debt is one of the reasons why birth rates have been declining in the U.S. According to a study from Ohio State University, every $1,000 in student debt a college graduate is historically linked to a 1.2% drop in the birth rate.
Due to mounting student debt and slow wealth accumulation, young adults have put off owning a home more than previous generations. In 2005, 43.3% of adults under the age of 35 owned their own home. Ten years later, only 34.6% of young adults did.
Birth rates for women in their late 20s have plummeted since the recession (before the recession, they had been rising). A slight rise in birth rates among women in their early 30s (30-34 years) has not made up for the difference either. And while birth rates among women in their early 30s had been on the rise since 2011, in 2017, the birth rate for this age group also fell for the first time since the end of the recession.
The Rising Cost of Child Care
But there are many other reasons for the declining birth rate in the U.S. and it would be incorrect to fully attribute falling fertility to lost Millennial wealth due to the Great Recession.
A recent New York Times/Morning Consult survey found that the number one reason men and women today cite for having fewer children than their ideal number is that child care is too expensive.
Indeed, the cost of child care is quite steep. According to Child Care Aware of America, the cost of daycare for infants averages between $5,000 – $23,000 per year, depending on the state of residence. For most low-income parents, these costs can be prohibitive.
The New York Times/Morning Consult survey found that many adults expected to have fewer children than they wanted. After child care, it reports, concerns related to finances, the economy, and the cost of raising a child were among the foremost reasons. Nearly 40% also cited not having paid leave through their employer or not having enough paid leave as reasons for not having as many children as they wanted. Presumably, if these couples had the financial security to take time off from work to have another child, they would. A full 36% of adults also said they struggled with striking a work-life balance, in part perhaps due to the fact that many adults do not feel secure enough in their careers or savings to devote sufficient time to family.
Some adults have even chosen to forgo childbearing altogether due to financial reasons. Those who say they do not want to have children most often say they want more leisure time or say that they haven’t found a suitable partner yet. But 31% say they do not want children because they cannot afford child care.
The cost of raising a child has skyrocketed in recent years. Since 2000, the cost of raising a child has risen by 41%. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), middle-income married households with two children making up to $107,000 per year spent on average $233,610 per child through age 17. And that doesn’t even include costs associated with putting a child through college. A middle-income couple today with two children can expect to spend about $12,680 per year on a child until the child turns 3.
Even for married couples making less than $59,000 per year, the cost of raising a child is not much different. On average, those parents shell out on average $174,690 per child in a two-child family.
According to the USDA, the biggest expenditure associated with the cost of raising a child is the cost of housing. In recent years, home prices have soared. In the past five years alone, the cost of housing has jumped by 33% nationally, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
According to the USDA the cost of food is the second-largest expenditure, after the cost of housing, for parents raising children. The cost of child care and education is a close third and the cost of transportation a close fourth. But for parents with children under the age of five, the cost of child care is often a larger expense than either food or transportation.
Lack of access to paid leave in the U.S. is also a significant hurdle for many couples. According to a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor, 46% of Americans in 2012 who qualified under federal law to take unpaid leave for medical reasons, military deployment, or for the birth of a new child did not take it because they could not afford to do so.
Very few Americans have access to paid leave. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17% of Americans as of 2018 had access to paid leave through their employer.
Other Economic Reasons
Studies have also hinted at other possible economic reasons for why the birth rate in the U.S. continues to tank.
For instance, high unemployment during the Great Recession may have a significantly negative hindering effect on how many children Millennials have in the long term. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, women who live through high unemployment rates while in their early 20s may have significantly fewer births over their lifetimes. The study found that every 1% point increase in the unemployment rate experienced by women in the early 20s correlates with a 14-point drop in the birth rate by age 40.
But the permanent loss of manufacturing jobs that were wiped out during the recession has perhaps had an even greater impact on the birth rate than high employment. According to one study, the loss of manufacturing jobs since the recession accounts for anywhere from 25%-50% of the drop in the birth rate, depending on race. The study found that the loss of manufacturing jobs during the recession had a stronger effect on the declining birth rate than even the unemployment rate. The loss of manufacturing jobs has driven down the birth rate for all major racial and ethnic groups, but the effect has fallen particularly hard on Hispanic women.
Population control policies to combat climate change prove deadly, demographer says
A group of over 11,000 scientists are calling for population control measures to avoid severe human suffering from global climate change, a notion a demographer says is heavily tied to money and not actual science.
The alliance of scientists signed a paper declaring a climate emergency is at hand and that in order to limit the damage to the environment caused by greenhouse gas emissions, there must be “more control over the massively booming global population, currently increasing by over 200,000 people a day,” the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
At the head of this international cohort of scientists is Oregon State professor of ecology William J. Ripple and researcher Christopher Wolf. The paper, which includes signatories from 153 nations, was published in the journal BioScience, and calls for the replacement of fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables, a shift in the world’s diet to plant-based foods, and the “stabilization” of the global human population, among other things. The paper portrays as a positive development the decline in recent decades of the global birth rate.
“We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states and provinces, cities, and businesses are responding,” the paper reads in its conclusion.
“As an Alliance of World Scientists, we stand ready to assist decision makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future.”
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, told The Christian Post on Thursday that it’s their ideas that prove destructive.
“In fact, their proposals to reduce the number of people born to reduce the amount of fossil fuel used, to reduce the amount food produced, to reduce the amount of land given over to the production of food, all of these things will cause untold human suffering,” Mosher stressed.
Mosher is well-versed in China’s long history with population control, including their one-child policy that entailed state-mandated forced abortions and sterilizations. He’s also the author of the 2017 book, Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order.
“The Chinese Communist Party has eliminated 400 million people from 1980 to 2016, 400 million of the most enterprising and hard-working people on the planet have been eliminated through forced abortions and infanticide after birth,” he said.
“Obviously that caused a lot of human suffering to those who were killed and the mothers and the parents who were left behind. So any proposal for population control is going to cause governments to intervene even more than they have in the private reproductive decisions of couples who have a natural right to decide for themselves the number and spacing of their children.”
When asked why scientists and others who push depopulation by making predictions of catastrophic events that fail to materialize — such as those set forth in Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb — are never held to account, Mosher said it comes down to the role of grant dollars in scientific research.
“They keep getting funding to propagate these scary stories,” he said, adding, “in part this is money-driven research.”
The Population Research Institute president, who has an advanced degree in oceanography, elaborated that if he were to conduct a study and ended up concluding that the mild increase in the Earth’s temperature did not portend a global crisis, his grant would not be renewed. But if another researcher came to the different conclusion, particularly that a disaster is imminent, he would receive additional funds. With more money, he will purportedly be able to research more and solve the problem, Mosher explained.
“It’s sad to say, because we think of science as being objective and unbiased, of seeking the truth without fear or favor. A lot of scientists seek grants and they are really less concerned about the truth of the matter than they about continuing to get their grant renewed. So there is a lot of human ego involved in these projects. And billions of dollars have been poured into these ideas,” he said.
“And these movements don’t go quietly to their graves. They continue in existence regardless of what the facts say.”
Mosher said he is not sure how much global warming will occur in the next century or how much of it is attributable to human activity.
“These people seem to deal with certainty as to what’s going to happen, what the climate is going to be like a hundred years from now, but we can’t even predict the weather more than a week or two out. And I think they’re claiming far too much for science and they are demanding far too much sacrifice from humanity, our living standards, and our whole well-being in return for an undefined and undefinable war [against climate change],” Mosher said.
“The cost-benefit analysis just isn’t there.”
Population control policies cause death as do their like-minded economic measures, which will disproportionately impact poorer people, and will lead to more deaths, he added. The advocates are not only pushing for this directly by promoting abortion and government entities telling people how many children they should and should not have and then sterilizing them when they have reached their quota, but by deliberately increasing the cost of food and energy.
“That’s going to have a population control effect too. That’s going to raise the mortality rate among infants and children and people in poorer countries and among the poorer segments of the population, even in wealthier countries,” he concluded.
Government of Uganda Disciplines Marie Stopes International
High-level employees working for an affiliate of the international abortion giant Marie Stopes International in Uganda have had their licenses suspended by the Ugandan government for allegedly okaying the distribution of untested condom shipments without the required prior authorization from the government.
According to the Ugandan Ministry of Health, the employees allegedly gave “false information” to their staff, indicating that approval had been granted by the government to distribute the condom stocks when no such authorization had been issued.
Condoms from the unauthorized batches released by Marie Stopes Uganda were additionally found to be defective by the Ugandan government’s drug regulatory agency, the National Drug Authority (NDA). In other words, the condoms had holes.
Following complaints from contraceptive users, the NDA on November 20th ordered Marie Stopes Uganda to issue a recall on more than 1 million Life Guard brand condoms. According to the health ministry, as of November 28th, nearly 20% of the condoms from the defective stocks had still yet to be recovered.
The Uganda Ministry of Health has officially sanctioned two employees working for Marie Stopes Uganda, including a director and a top pharmacist responsible for authorizing the distribution of condom shipments in the country.
Under Ugandan health regulations, condom shipments are not permitted to be released onto the market until they have undergone quality assurance testing by the NDA. Condom importers in Uganda are required to embargo commodities for release until they receive the green light from the NDA certifying that the batches are not defective.
The NDA’s condom testing laboratory is a level 4 testing facility certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB), a U.S.-based accreditation body that serves as the official U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standards (ISO).
The Ugandan Ministry of Health’s preliminary investigations into the case found that Kohora Ojambo Geofrey, a high-ranking pharmacist at Marie Stopes Uganda, allegedly circulated a memo with Marie Stopes management saying that the defective condom batches had received approval from the NDA.
Testifying before the Ugandan Parliament, former Uganda State Minister for Health (General Duties) Sarah Opendi told lawmakers that the ministry “suspended them having found that the pharmacist gave them false information that the condoms have been cleared,” according to the Daily Monitor.
“NDA had not yet written to Marie Stopes to clear those specific batches of condoms and in the meantime, they had told them to keep them until verification is done, but the pharmacist in the process wrote a communication that NDA had cleared the condoms,” Ms. Opendi told lawmakers.
The health ministry has indicated that it will continue its investigation into the case.
On December 14, as part of a major government-wide reshuffling of the cabinet by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Ms. Opendi was moved from her post at the Ministry of Health to another post at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.
Earlier last month, the NDA had found that condoms from the unauthorized batches released by Marie Stopes were defective. According to the Daily Nation, NDA product safety officer Victoria Nambasa said that the condoms were not free from “holes and burst properties.”
“We had batches failing tests. Both batches failed the first test. They could not attain the required volume and pressure before they could burst,” Wilberforce Kwiringira told the Daily Monitor.
“The condom scandal is not just an indication, but a clear evidence that Marie Stopes is unqualified to provide family planning services in Uganda,” says Pius Okiror, Legal and Policy Analyst for Human Life Uganda.
“[T]his organisation has often championed the provision of “services” that undermine Uganda’s laws and policies including constitutional provisions,” Okiror told PRI by email.
“[T]he Ministry of Internal Affairs that is charged with regulating the conduct of CSOs [i.e., civil society organizations] both local and foreign, should recall Marie Stopes’ licence and ban the activities of Marie Stopes in the country entirely,” Okiror said.
The condom scandal in Uganda is just the latest in a long string of controversies involving Marie Stopes International being sanctioned or investigated by foreign governments.
Last November, one of Marie Stopes International’s affiliates in Kenya was temporarily banned from performing abortions in Kenya by the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (MPDB), a regulating body under Kenyan law responsible for licensing doctors and medical practitioners. The judgement from the MPDB came after the Kenya Film Classification Board—a state corporation authorized under Kenyan law to regulate TV, radio, and film content—banned Marie Stopes from airing advertisements that were deemed to be promoting abortion in opposition to Kenya’s Constitution. The Kenyan Ministry of Health later lifted the ban after conducting an investigation of Marie Stopes and after a lawsuit was filed at the High Court by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based law group that agitates for the legalization of abortion worldwide.
Last year as well, the government of Niger ordered Marie Stopes International to close its facilities in Niger after an investigation by the health ministry found that the organization was “enabling the voluntary interruption of pregnancy” in conflict with a 2006 law which prohibits abortion in all cases except health of the mother and in cases of fetal disability.
In 2016, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in the U.K. temporarily suspended Marie Stopes from performing surgical abortions and abortions on vulnerable women and girls under 18 after audits from the CQC revealed that staff at Marie Stopes clinics had a lack in competency in administering conscious sedation and general anesthesia and that there was a lack of assurance that Marie Stopes clinics were providing women with informed consent. The CQC is an independent public body part of the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care responsible for auditing health facilities.
In 2012, the government of Zambia banned Marie Stopes International from performing abortions in the country after the health ministry determined that the organization had allegedly carried out 490 illegal abortions over a five-month period.
Marie Stopes International is an international NGO that provides abortion and contraception services and operates in 37 countries. According to Marie Stopes International’s latest annual report, the organization provided over 4.8 million abortion and post-abortion services worldwide in 2018 alone. It has a long history of skirting the laws of the countries in which it operates.