The U.S. fertility rate declined in 2018 for the fourth consecutive year, reaching a record low 59.1 births for every 1,000 women able to bear children, the National Center for Health Statistics announced on Wednesday.
The fertility rate has been on the decline since the 2008 recession, with a slight rebound in 2014. Typically, economic crises lead to a decline in fertility rates, but the current decline has not reversed even as the economy has recovered.
“It is hard for me to believe that the birthrate just keeps going down,” University of New Hampshire demographer Kenneth Johnson told to the New York Times.
“The data suggest that people want to establish themselves before having children,” Alison Gemmill, a demographer at Johns Hopkins University, told the Times. “They also want to make sure they have adequate resources to raise quality children.”
The median age at which women give birth has increased continuously over the past several decades. William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, said the median childbearing age in the 1970’s was 21 for women and 23 for men, while data from the Census Bureau show that the median childbearing age in 2018 was 28 for women and 30 for men. The number of women giving birth under the age of 35 has also steadily declined, with more women giving birth in their 30’s and 40’s.
The annual rate of births per woman, which for 2018 was 59.1/1000 is known as the general fertility rate. A different metric, the total fertility rate, measures the likely number of children the average woman will have during her lifetime, if current fertility patterns hold.
For 2018 the TFR stood at 1.73, according to a Pew study released in May. This means that women are having fewer than two children on average, below replacement level for the general population.