Birth rates in the United States have steadily been declining since 1990. Back in 1990 there were 16.7 births, per 1000 people in the population, that number in 2014 shank to 12.5.

The Great Recession may have contributed to the steep decline from 2008 to 2010, as it can be seen throughout time that birth rates decline in times of economic trouble as people postpone childbearing until the economy has improved. However, that is just a small time period and it can still be seen that birth rates have been decreasing for the past couple decades. Many factors have contributed to this decrease, but the major factors contributing has been the push to promote the use of contraceptives in teenagers, increase in percentage of teenagers going to college, and families deciding to have less children.

  1. Push to promote the use of contraceptives in teenagers. Since 1990 there has been a push to promote the use of contraceptives or abstinence by teenagers. The number of sexually active teenage females has fell (3) since the early 90’s, contributing to decreasing birth rates in the U.S. Along with this push, the improvement of technology has reduced the cost of contraceptives and making them more efficient, allowing for more teenagers to use them. The percentage of sexually active students grades 9 through 12 who used condoms in 1990 was 46.2% That percentage increased to 59.1% in 2013.

Between the different improvements to contraceptives and the recent heavy push for abstinence and use of such contraceptives, there has been a decline in teenage pregnancies from 61.8 births, per 1000 females aged 15-19 in 1990 to 26.5 per 1000 in 2013. This shows how effective the contributions previously stated have been.

2. Increase in teenagers going to college after high school. Normally people try to wait to have children until they are established in a job or career, waiting until they are out of school so they have a means of provided from their children. That being said, since the early 90’s there has been an increase in students, especially females who are now attending colleges after high school. This may be caused by an increase in necessary skills needed to normally be successful in the labor market. Before it used to be that someone did not need to attend college to gain the necessary skills to complete a desired job. However, with an increase in technology, an increase in needed skills have occurred as well, causing more students to need to go to college. In 1990 4% of women and 24.4% of men of the U.S. population who had completed four years of college or more. That number rose to 32% of women and 31.9% of men in 2014. This is a massive increase and shows just how important it is currently to earn a college degree. However, because people are staying in school longer they are waiting longer to have children. The average age of first time mothers has steadily increased from 21.4 in 1970 to 25 in 2006.

3. Families deciding to have less children. Raising a child in today’s world can be a very expensive and challenging task. For parents that struggle to put paychecks together, there just isn’t the possibility of raising a lot of children. With how important going to college is today and all the other costs of raising children, this may deter them from having multiple children. Since 1990 the cost of raising a child has increased greatly. The total cost of raising a child in 1990 (inflation adjusted for 2011 dollars) was $207,859, while the 2010 cost (inflation adjusted for 2011 dollars) $235,996. Along with the increase in costs and challenges associated with raising children, there has also been social shocks that could have contributed to the decrease in family size during the past couple decades. Social pressures have eased on child bearing, especially in a religious aspect, where it was expected for a mother to bear multiple children. Also, as more families moved away from rural areas and to urban, parents no longer need children to work on farms and to take care of the parents when they grow old. Between 1990 and 2014 the number of births per woman was 2.08 and 1.86 respectively. All these factors, along with others could have contributed to families deciding to have less children.

Conclusion: So it can be seen why the birth rates may be declining. With teenagers using contraceptives more, there are less unplanned pregnancies in teenagers, lowering birth rates. This increase in contraceptives use has occurred due to increase in technology, lowering the cost of such contraceptives. As well as this increase in technology, more teenagers are staying abstinent, contributing to lower birth rates in teenagers. Moving along, with more teenagers going to college, these students are waiting longer to have children. Since the 1970 the average age of first time mothers have increased by over 3 years. With women waiting later to have children it doesn’t give them the opportunity to have as many, leading to a decrease in birth rates that can be seen as more students have gone to college after high school. Lastly, there has been a trend the past few decades of families deciding to have less children. Costs associated with having children have increased substantially since 1990 and this has caused families to not be able to afford to have as many children. Also with how urbanized the United States has become, families no longer need children to work on farms or other chores around the house, so the demand of children has decreased throughout the past decades. All these factors discussed and many others have contributed to a decrease in birth rates in the United States.



Why Birth Rates in the United States are Declining