Everyone’s Missing the Obvious About the Declining U.S. Birth Rate
7 counterarguments in response to anyone who blames the baby bust on women or millennials
For the past several days, my Facebook feed, Twitter timeline, and evening news have been filled with stories on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest report about the declining birth rate of U.S. women.
Despite the breadth of the data included in its January 2019 vital statistics update, the CDC statistic generating the biggest headlines is the one that calculates the birth rate in the U.S. to be 16 percent below the amount needed to replace our population over time.
Most of the stories dominating the news cycle have sensational, clickbait headlines: “Women in the U.S. Are Having Fewer Babies” (Time); “U.S. Fertility Rates Have Plummeted Into Uncharted Territory, and Nobody Knows Why” (Science Alert); “The U.S. Is in the Danger Zone for a ‘Demographic Time Bomb’” (Insider); and “Florida, U.S. Have a Baby Problem” (Orlando Sentinel). Among my personal favorites are the headlines where women are blamed as if it’s all immaculate conception — “Women Aren’t Having Enough Babies to Replace Ourselves” (Moms).
But all of the news noise is missing the glaringly obvious facts that every millennial I know recognizes immediately. Here are seven real reasons behind the declining birth rate:
1. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of all developed countries.
When NPR and ProPublica investigated maternal mortality in the U.S., their findings were clear: “More American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country. Only in the U.S. has the rate of women who die been rising.”
Here, around 26 out of every 100,000 pregnant women die each year, and while some European and Eurasian countries have rates in the teens, the U.S. maternal mortality rate is rising while most other countries are seeing their rates decline. The U.K., for example, has a rate of around nine in every 100,000 women dying, but the Lancet noted that country’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality has meant “being pregnant in the U.K. has never been…