The birth rate is down in the United States, but American enthusiasm for having children hasn't waned in nearly a quarter-century, according to a new Gallup poll.
An analysis of results by Gallup says 9 in 10 adults "say they already have children, are planning to have children or wish that they had had children." The number who don't want children has remained pretty consistent at 5 percent in 2013, up from 4 percent in 2003 and 1990.
National health officials this month released data showing that American fertility rates, which had been dropping somewhat steeply in recent years, appears to be leveling off at a low of 63 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. Birthrates were down across age groups, with the exception of women in their 30s and early 40s, where rates rose slightly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics said that the flattening of the birthrate is being viewed as a sign that an uptick in births may be likely in the future.
Gallup notes it's clearly not a change in attitudes leading to the lower fertility rate. "More than three-quarters of Americans feel the main reason couples do not have more children is finances or the economy and those who do have children agree on this point with those who do not," wrote Gallup's Frank Newport and Joy Wilke.
It appears an uptick in births would be fine with most American adults. In the telephone survey of 5,100 conducted in August, Gallup found that more than half of Americans 18 to 40 have kids, while 40 percent do not at the moment but hope to have some.
The vast majority of those 45 and older who have had children say they would do so again, if they were to revisit the choice. More than half of those 45 and older who never had children say they would be parents, if they had to do it all again.
"Combined, more than 9 in 10 older Americans either have children or wish they had," the analysis noted.
Americans on average say the ideal number of children is 2.6, which has been about the same in Gallup polls since the late 1970s. It was higher, at 3.6 percent, back in 1936, then dropped between 1957-78. Younger adults, ages 18 to 29, are just a bit higher, at 2.7 children, while those 65 and older are a trace lower, at 2.5 children.
The survey indicates the fertility rate could go up as the economy improves, given 76 percent mention not enough money, the cost of raising a child or lack of jobs as reasons not to have children.
If a flatter birthrate line indicates more babies may be on the way as the economy improves, one place experts don't expect to see an increase is among teens, according to Bill Albert, spokesman for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a national group based in Washington, D.C. He told the Deseret News that both the National Survey of Family Growth and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that fewer teens are sexually active.
Several recent Gallup polls have tracked children-related attitudes and concerns. For instance, in August Gallup noted that one-third of parents worry that their children might not be safe in school.
Another found two-thirds hope their children will not grow up to be politicians. That may be related to the June poll showing that Americans have less confidence in Congress than during any other Gallup survey.
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