Though Facebook has, at least for me, seemingly turned into a photo stream of all babies all the time, in reality, fewer Americans are having babies than ever before. Economists have noticed that, unlike previous times when fertility rates have dipped, this moment in history is different.
Kasey Buckles, an economist at the University of Notre Dame who studies fertility, tells NPR’s Planet Money that fertility rates naturally decline with recessions, which makes sense because raising kids, like nearly everything else in life, are fucking expensive. After a recession, people usually resume getting pregnant again. But even after the economy bounced back from the 2008 recession, America is in a “baby-less recovery,” Buckles says.
What’s going on? There are a couple of theories, but one study from Buckles and researchers Melanie Guldi and Lucie Schmidt suggests that not every millennial is avoiding pregnancy—in fact, women over 30 seem to be getting pregnant at a higher rate than ever before:
We’re witnessing an astonishing demographic shift, Buckles says. For the first time in American history, women aged 30-34 have the highest fertility rate of all age brackets. Younger women are having far fewer unintended pregnancies, accounting for about a third of the overall decline in births since 2007. Buckles believes the remaining two-thirds of the decline is the product of a generation deciding they’re not ready for marriage and kids.
Buckles theorizes that maybe younger people, who are saddled with debt and are just emerging out of a recession, might be over-stimulated by technology to procreate. Maybe that’s true. But I’m sure that rising income inequality and America’s lack of public policies, including no federally mandated paid leave, continue to make it prohibitively expensive for people have children, are not helping, either.