New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that America's facing a crisis of unparalleled proportions— no one's having babies anymore. Some experts blame the decline in birth rate on the everlasting economic Dutch oven in which we now live. With an imminent shortage of able bodied youngsters waiting to replace us at our shitty jobs, who's going to pay for our future entitlement costs and feed us thickened coffee when we get old?! Who are we going to call ungrateful slackers in 20 years?
The Washington Post reports that statisticians first noticed a decline in the birth rate at about the same time that the financial crisis intensified in 2008. The birth rate continued to drop in 2009, and even though it seems like everyone you went to high school with gave birth in the last year and a half, the rate continued to drop in 2010. We're now having fewer babies per capita than we ever had, at least since we started keeping track of these stats in the 1940's.
Although all ages and races experienced a decline in birth rate, the drop was most dramatic among young women. Women in their early 20's experienced a 6% drop in birth rate, and unmarried women had 4% fewer babies. Women of Hispanic origin have gone from a 3 children per woman down to a 2.4 children per women rate in just a few years. Overall, the average American woman can expect to have 1.9 children, down from 2.1 just a few years ago (Maybe second borns are statistical underachievers).
While there's no way to conclude from these statistics that everyone who didn't have a baby put off reproducing because of money concerns, the correlation between the economic downturn and the sharp decline in birth rate is striking. For reasons that may or may not be related to the economy, American women are having less sex, more abortions, or doubling down on the birth control.
Could we be having less sex? Lots of young people are unemployed, unemployment is depressing, and it's hard to feel sexy when you've been wearing pajamas for three days. Birth control can be expensive without insurance, and abstinence is much smaller a pain in the ass than an unwanted pregnancy.
Are we having more abortions? According to the Guttmacher Institute, the rate of abortions in the US has been declining fairly steadily since 1990. There's no data available for 2009 and 2010, but an uptick in the number of abortions would be a break from existing trends.
It's certainly possible that people are being more vigilant about taking birth control; the rate of teen pregnancy dropped 9% last year, and most teens who have had babies in the past probably didn't do it because they feel like being conspicuous consumers. It's also possible that the presence of unglamorous teen parents in pop culture— like the couples featured on Teen Mom— scares the pants right back on the hoards of lustful MTV-watching teens.
Finally, it's possible that women are having fewer babies because not every single woman in the whole world desires above all to be a mother. Being child free by choice is becoming more socially acceptable, as are smaller family sizes.
Or maybe we're all worn so razor thin that we can no longer ovulate.
No matter what forces are behind the baby vacuum, it's hard to argue that having kids is exactly a pennypincher's dream. The cost of diapers is too damn high.