The year 2020 saw yet another decline in the American birth rate, which has been falling well below replacement rates for years and shows no sign of increasing.
Although 2020’s data is significant, it is a small drop in a much larger trend of decline. To many, this sounds concerning— a growing population means a larger workforce and greater output, and therefore a growing economy— but many experts say the forecast is not so grim as it might first appear. Technological innovation can make up the economic fallout from a declining population, and then some. And part of the reason women are having fewer kids is because they are working and finding greater fulfillment outside the home, which is an irrefutable social gain. On the flip side, however, prices of homes, healthcare, child care and other necessities have inflated while wages have largely stagnated, making it difficult for families to take care of new members, particularly if either parent plans to stay home. And although the planet cannot sustain an endlessly growing population, a birth rate reduction will not actually have much of an effect of climate change, whereas a strategic appropriation of resources among the world’s population would.
Today on AirTalk, we’re learning more about what declining birth rates might mean for the environment, gender equity and the national economy. Questions? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.
Phillip Levine, professor of economics at Wellesley College and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he co-authored the report “Will births in the US rebound? Probably not.”; he tweets @phil_wellesley