America's fertility rate, once the envy of the developed world, has fallen to 1.9, below the "replacement rate" of 2.1 at which a population is said to be stable. That drop, now below France's birth rate, seems to have occurred in conjunction with the recession.
"Conservative Americans like to contrast the vigor and virility of their own country with the decadence and decline of Europe," noted the Economist this week. "Demography is exhibit A in their argument. Mitt Romney, for example, talked about Europe's 'demographic disaster' as he ended his presidential bid in 2008, calling it 'the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality.'"
The total fertility rate is a key measure of that so-called virility. But in 2011, America's rate fell below not only replacement level, but also some large European countries, including France and England. The Economist says France's rate is stable, while England's is growing a little.
The decreased rate occurring in lockstep with the faltering economic likely centers on the fact that, absent ample work and bright fiscal prospects, many migrants are choosing to go back to their native countries. Immigrants typically have somewhat larger families. And young couples are putting off starting families, citing economic factors, according to an article in USA Today.
A forecast presented by Demographic Intelligence in July predicted that the birth rate in America will fall to 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year. That's the lowest it has been since 1987, said the Virginia-based company, which provides quarterly birth forecasts to companies that produce products for families, among others.
In a written statement reported earlier in the Deseret News, the demographer group noted that the decline is striking and unexpected, given that the children of baby boomers, a large group referred to as the Echo Boom generation, is of child-bearing age, "which should have led to an increase in the overall number of children born each year. But this baby boomlet has so far failed to materialize because today's young adults are concerned about their current employment status and future economic prospects."
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