The fertility rate—the average number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime—peaked in the US in 2007, but it's been downhill ever since. And now, according to a new demographics report, America's fertility rate is lower than rates in both England and France. Why has America's baby boom suddenly gone bust? Here's a look at the latest numbers—and what couples have to say about planning a family.
First, how low can we go? As 2011 stats collected by Demographic Intelligence show, the American rate is 1.9 and falling. France's is 2.0 and holding steady. The rate in England is 2.0 and rising slightly.
These numbers come as a surprise because America has long stood out among industrialized countries for having a relatively high fertility rate, hovering right around 2.1—the so-called "replacement rate" that keeps populations stable. For the past few decades, European countries have been typically below that rate, sometimes far below it, reports The Economist.
Falling fertility rates are unexpected for another key reason. Members of Generation Y, sometimes called the Echo Boom generation because they are the children of the Baby Boomers, are moving into peak childbearing age. This should mean a surge in the number of births each year as a distant mirror of their grandparents' record numbers. However, the expected "baby boomlet" has so far failed to materialize.
What's going on? "Well, for us, it's clearly a case of, 'it's the economy stupid,'" says Betsy Stone, 32, from Chicago, Illinois. "We're still getting back on our feet after layoffs for both of us in 2010. Fingers crossed, 2013 is our year!"
But another member of Gen Y, Jessie Larkin, 30, is more willing to throw caution the wind. "We waited a few years because of money, but now I'm glad we just went for it," says Larkin, who is due in December. Plus, she adds, "There are definite perks to having a 'recession baby.' Have you seen the sales of baby cribs, lately? I am saving a bundle by having this baby!"