Up FrontWill births in the united state rebound? probably not.Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip LevineMonday, might 24, 2021
Recently released main U.S. Birth data for 2020 verified that births have actually been falling practically continuously for more than a decade. Because that every 1,000 females of childbearing age (15 come 44), 55.8 of them offered birth in 2020, compared to 69.5 in 2007, a 20 percent decline. The “total fertility rate,” i m sorry is a measure constructed from this data to estimate the average total number of children a woman will ever before have, fell from 2.12 in 2007 to 1.64 in 2020. That is now well listed below 2.1, the value thought about to be “replacement fertility,” i beg your pardon is the rate necessary for the populace to change itself without immigration.

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Melissa S. Kearney

Nonresident an elderly Fellow - financial Studies


Phillip Levine

Nonresident fellow - financial Studies, Future of the Middle course Initiative


However, the total fertility price calculated from annual birth data might be a misleading indicator of yes, really future fertility rates. The is only an suitable indicator the the total variety of children women will have, ~ above average, if the age profile the childbearing is static. As some have pointed out, ladies today can just be delaying your births, however they could go top top to ultimately have the same variety of total children, on average, together women before them. If so, today’s short birth rates will cant in future years, and the current decline will prove to it is in a short-term phenomenon. Alternatively, if women both delay childbearing and do not compensate with more births at later on ages, the recent decrease is most likely to reflect a persistently lower level that births.

Low birth rates and below instead of level fertility prices in the U.S. Space probably right here to stay for the foreseeable future.

We effort to distinguish between these two options by tracking birth histories of succeeding cohorts of females over the previous 30 years. The data reported this means provide proof that women space both delaying childbearing and having fewer complete births. This implies that the latter alternative is much more likely: low birth rates and also below instead of level fertility prices in the U.S. Room probably here to remain for the foreseeable future.

Using contemporaneous birth data to forecast fertility trends might be inaccurate

We recognize that ladies are having actually their first child in ~ older periods than in the past. The median period at an initial birth has risen native 22.7 in 1980 to 24.9 in 2000 and also 26.9 in 2018. Just due to the fact that women begin later, though, walk not mean that lock will have actually fewer births over their whole childbearing years.

The traditional calculation that the “total fertility rate” assumes the the age profile that childbearing it was observed in a solitary year can be used to a woman’s lifetime. The is built by adding up the likelihood the a woman gives birth in ~ each age as it was observed in the data that year. It assumes that young women this particular day will have actually the same birth rates at older periods as women at later on childbearing periods today.

If bear rates throughout ages are stable over time, climate the full fertility rate will accurately capture the average number of children a mrs will have actually over she lifetime. But, if birth rates throughout ages space not stable, this statistic will inaccurately forecast life time births. In particular, if ladies are having the same total number of children, yet at older ages, the complete fertility price will temporarily fall.

Birth patterns by age for succeeding cohorts of women support lower lifetime fertility

Data tracking births of various cohorts of women (born in ~ the same time) an ext accurately catch trends in fertility, albeit at the expense of incomplete data for females whose childbearing years space not however complete. We research these an essential Statistics birth data to gain more insight. Figure 1 plots the age profile that childbearing for women born between 1975 and 2000 in five-year intervals. These data present a clear period profile: births climb through the early to mid-20s and then start decreasing in the early 30s.

They also show that successively younger cohorts of ladies are having actually fewer births at all observed ages. The 1975 and also 1980 birth cohorts had actually very similar birth-age profiles, in terms of both levels and also profile shape. Every successive cohort after that have actually had substantially fewer births through period 30. These age profiles indicate that to maintain the complete childbearing rates of earlier cohorts, women that are currently in their 20s and 30s will have to have substantially an ext births after period 30 than earlier cohorts. (We have replicated this evaluation using data native the June fertility additionally of the Current populace Survey and find the very same pattern.)


The mite in number 1 reflect every cohort’s period at the beginning of the good Recession in 2008. Females in the 1995 and also 2000 birth cohorts were not yet childbearing age at the point. These data present a dip in births in the years adhering to the beginning of the recession. They additionally show the birth rates returned to predicable paths afterwards. This is continual with the great Recession leading to critical but short-lived reduction in fertility.

Figure 2 equates these childbearing period profiles into total number of children ever born through a particular age. The figure clearly shows the successively younger cohorts of ladies are having fewer kids by details ages. For instance, by age 24, the 1995 bear cohort that women had actually 38 percent fewer kids than the 1975 and also 1980 bear cohorts had at that period (0.5 contrasted to 0.8). This younger cohort would need to have actually 21 percent an ext children in ~ each period from 25 v 44 to “catch up” come the earlier cohorts in terms of total lifetime childbearing. As an additional example, the 1990 birth cohort has had actually 21 percent fewer births through period 29 contrasted to the 1975 and also 1980 cohorts; they would need to have 38 percent an ext births in their staying childbearing year to record up in state of life time fertility.


Younger females TODAY now ARE most likely TO have FEWER kids COMPARED come PREVIOUS COHORTS the WOMEN

Women in the 1975 v 1980 birth cohorts had an mean of around 2.2 total lifetime births. What need to we expect for the an ext recent bear cohorts who have not yet completed their childbearing years?

We simulate the total variety of children ever before born for the younger cohorts of women under three different scenarios. The “conservative” scenario uses the age profile in childbearing observed because that the 1975 with 1980 birth cohorts (the “baseline” rate – a smoothed version of the observed prices for this cohorts) to the remaining periods of the much more recent bear cohorts of 1985, 1990, and 1995. The “moderate” script assumes that births converge come the exact same level of the 1975 and also 1980 cohorts by period 30 and then complies with their age-profile ~ that. The “aggressive” script assumes the births converge by age 30 to a level that is 10 percent higher than the 1975 and 1980 cohorts’ level and also stays elevated ~ that.

Figure 3 illustrates this simulation strategy for the 1995 bear rate. The hard pink heat represents observed births through period 24 and also the dotted lines represent simulations based upon these different assumptions.


Table 1 reports the forecasted variety of children ever before born based on these simulated period profiles because that the 1985 through 2000 bear cohorts. Under all three scenarios, the total number of children ever born per woman is meant to fall for much more recent bear cohorts. Regardless of assumptions, all cohorts previous 1985 space predicted come fall quick of replacement fertility. Because that the 1995 bear cohort, the simulated total variety of children born per woman is 1.61 under the conservative scenario, 1.86 under the center scenario, and also 1.97 under the aggressive scenario. Every of those worths is reduced for the 2000 birth cohort (1.44, 1.77, and also 1.92, respectively).

Table 1: Forecast number of Children ever before Born through Mother’s birth Cohort


Conservative Approach

Moderate Approach

Aggressive Approach

1975-1980 “baseline”

Notes: see notes to figure 3.

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This evaluation implies the U.S. Fertility rates are likely to be considerably below replacement levels because that the foreseeable future. This is moved by an ext than a decade of falling bear rates and also declining births in ~ all eras for lot of cohorts that women, not simply the after-effects of the pandemic-induced reduction in births. Furthermore, the simulated fertility rates we report in this essay are comparable to those observed in basically all other high-income countries. This proof leads us to intend that U.S. Birth rates and total perfect fertility prices are not most likely to rebound any time soon. Further research is required to far better understand the factors for the long-term decrease and what, if any, policy responses are warranted.