It sounds like the news you’d see in a flashback scene in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The birthrate has fallen! Babies are scarce!
It’s the lowest number of babies born in this country since 1987.
There are several reasons why this has happened in the United States, and barely any of them are potentially Gilead-related or will lead to the events of the dystopic “Children of Men.”
Last year saw the births of over 3.8 million new babies in the U.S., which according to the Center for Disease Control falls below population replacement level, which is the number of babies you need to come into the world as people die out of it.
The report adds that the U.S. has been falling from replacement levels since the 1970s, and only immigration has saved the U.S. from the issues countries like Japan have been experiencing when older generations outnumber the young.
The real enemy behind the population drop is likely the economy. In 2007, more than 4.3 million babies were born – which was enough to pass the number of babies born in the Baby Boom era after World War II.
Since the 2008 financial crash, circumstances for the average American haven’t improved much and healthcare costs have only skyrocketed. This kind of economic instability mirrors the population drop in the late ‘70s when the oil crisis stunted the economy and caused millions of families to postpone having children.
The lack of maternity laws and policies in the U.S. is also likely hurting the birthrate. Unless a company has a significant maternity leave policy, most women can’t leave work for months at a time to recover and take care of a newborn. The result is that some women are skipping motherhood or returning to work dangerously soon after birthing.
Women can pursue careers and choose to become a mom later in life. We have better access to birth control, higher education and period-tracking apps that let us know when we’re most fertile or not. Those who want to get pregnant and those who don’t have much more control over our bodies than the generation before us.
Generational drops aren’t unique to millennials, although it feels like we’re blamed for just about everything. It’s not uncommon for birthrates to fall as countries become more developed.
The figures dip and rise as echoes to our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. The news worth celebrating is the 7 percent drop in teenage pregnancy. It’s a historic low, and down 70 percent from its peak in the early 1990s.