SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Births in the United States fell 4% last year compared to 2019, which is the lowest level since 1979. In Missouri, it was the first time in more than a century the state reported more deaths than births.
So, what’s causing the decline in births, and what impact could this have on the economy?
Experts claim the COVID-19 pandemic played a big factor in the record low birth rates in 2020.
“I think that made people hold off on having children all that uncertainty,” said Dr. David Mitchell, Economics Professor at Missouri State University.
However, for some young women, the reason behind waiting is due to their studies and career.
“I have five more years of school so, I’m like just gotta get that over with, and I don’t even have a job right now because I am focused on school, so I don’t have the money to pay for a kid right now,” said Ashley Porcelli, a student at MSU.
“Ever since you’re little, you think about how you want your life to go,” said Maggie Lewis, an MSU student. “I want to graduate, then get married and be financially stable before I have kids.”
It is true birth rates tend to decline during times of financial crisis. Before 2008, women were having about 2.1 children, which was enough to replace their parents when they die. However, that number fell to 1.7 in 2020, which is below the replacement rate.
Dr. Mitchell argues that money shouldn’t be a major factor post-pandemic.
“Holding off on marriage and holding off on having kids, in a way, doesn’t actually save money,” said Dr. Mitchell. “If you’re in your mid-20s, you’ve been dating your potential spouse for a long time, you know, you still have two apartments and two electric bills.”
Mitchell says a one-year drop wouldn’t take much of a toll on the economy or future workforce, but it could lead to some problems if the trend continues.
“Then it can lead to potential problems in terms of you don’t have enough people to support Social Security because it’s a pay-as-you-go system,” said Dr. Mitchell. “You have decreased in demand for goods and services.”
Dr. Mitchell says there’s already been talk of incentives for adults to have more children. One example of the is a tax credit. However, it’s difficult to predict if the trend of declining births will continue.