Birth Rates Continue to Plunge: US Census Bureau

Tue Aug 19, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By Jenna Murphy

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2008 ( - The percentage of childless women who have reached the end of their child-bearing years in the United States has doubled from 10% to 20% in the last 30 years, reported the US Census Bureau on Monday.

The survey also found that, "Women 40 to 44 years old will end their childbearing years with an average of 1.9 children each, a number below replacement-level fertility." This is markedly fewer children than in 1976, when 3.1 children was the national average.

36% of the women who gave birth in 2006 were separated, widowed, divorced or never married. Five percent were living with a partner.

The survey also revealed that most women who go on to post-secondary education wait until they are between 30 and 34 to have children. 27% of those women with undergraduate degrees and upwards are childless.

Only the Hispanic and Black populations in the US are replacing themselves with an average of 2.3 and 2.0 children born per woman respectively, making them the only stabilizing force in the American population. At this rate, experts say, whites will be the minority in America by 2042.

Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at John Hopkins University whose specialties are family and public policy commented on the newly released numbers, observing that fewer children forebodes a future demographic crisis.

"It means that 25 years from now, there’ll be many elderly people who are childless and who may not have anybody to care for them," he said.

In a 2006 message to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences Pope Benedict XVI, whose own native land of Germany has seen massive declines in birthrates, remarked that children are too often looked upon in terms of their economic cost and not as gifts from God. This mentality, he says, is not only causing a decline in birth rates, but it is also detrimental to children already born.

"It is children and young people," he said, "who are often the first to experience the consequences of this eclipse of love and hope." 

"Often, instead of feeling loved and cherished, they appear to be merely tolerated." 

It is not only the United States that is experiencing drastic population decline. Last year, surveys revealed that the Canadian birthrates have also hit an all time low, clocking in at an average of 1.5 children per woman, while the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, has predicted an overall drop in Europe’s population of 7 million people by 2050.

US Census Press Release:

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