The Puzzle of Falling US Birth Rates since the Great Recession
AbstractThis paper documents a set of facts about the dramatic decline in birth rates in the United States between 2007 and 2020 and explores possible explanations. The overall reduction in the birth rate reflects declines across many groups of women, including teens, Hispanic women, and college-educated white women. The Great Recession contributed to the decline in the early part of this period, but we are unable to identify any other economic, policy, or social factor that has changed since 2007 that is responsible for much of the decline beyond that. Mechanically, the falling birth rate can be attributed to changes in birth patterns across recent cohorts of women moving through childbearing age. We conjecture that the "shifting priorities" of more recent cohorts, reflecting changes in preferences for having children, aspirations for life, and parenting norms, may be responsible. We conclude with a brief discussion about the societal consequences for a declining birth rate and what the United States might do about it.
CitationKearney, Melissa S., Phillip B. Levine, and Luke Pardue. 2022. "The Puzzle of Falling US Birth Rates since the Great Recession." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 36 (1): 151-76. DOI: 10.1257/jep.36.1.151
- E32 Business Fluctuations; Cycles
- J11 Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
- J13 Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
- J15 Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
- J16 Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination