The recession has made us poorer, and that means we’re less likely to have kids.
That’s the takeaway from new data released by the Center for Health Statistics, and reported on over at HealthNews. After a very, um, productive year for U.S. births in 2007, when more than 4.3 million children were born, the number of births in this country dropped in 2008 to 4,247,000. The fertility rate among women ages 15 to 44 — which had risen from 68.7 per 1,000 in 2006 to 69.2 in 2007 — also fell off last year, landing at 68.4 per 1,000.
Most of the experts cited in the HealthNews piece are convinced that these statistics prove the economic crisis has made people less likely to start families or have more children. Andrew Hacker, a sociologist at Queens College, has no doubt. “It’s the recession,” he says.
There is certainly historical precedent to back up that claim. As the story notes, fertility rates have traditionally fallen in similar fashion during past economic shake-ups.
But before we add “fewer cooing babies” to our list of reasons why the current downturn has ruined life as we know it, I feel like we need a little more data. More specifically — and as Stephanie Ventura from the National Center for Health Statistics notes at the end of the story — we need to see what the birth and fertility rates turn out to be for 2009, when more people really began to confront the long-term impact of this downturn.
Also, for the record, I’d be curious to see data on the number of American families that adopted children during those same years. Fertility rates and number of births tell a large part of the story, but clearly it costs money to raise adopted children, too. If those numbers dropped as well, that only bolsters the case that the recession may indeed be making us more reticent to commit to adding to our broods.
And if the figures really plummet in 2009, I also humbly suggest another extremely important contributing factor: the popularity of “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” Just sayin’.