If birth rates are an indicator, then the US is headed for rough times. Birth rates have been below replacement levels ever since the ’70s, creating an upturned pyramid where seniors grossly outnumber children.
Fewer Births, Fewer Deaths
As of 2017, only Nebraska and Utah maintained birthrates high enough to meet replacement levels (2.1 births for every woman). Utah has since fallen below replacement levels, and Nebraska is barely hanging on. Fewer births and longer life expectancy have created an aging demographic where the median age is getting older and older. Advances in medicine and healthier living conditions have allowed Americans to reach the ages of 80 and beyond. Although the disparity in age demographics is not as bad as Japan’s, the older population is slowly affecting the US economy.
A Shrinking Workforce
Lower birthrates translate to a smaller workforce further down the road. The population boom in the 1940s and 1950s laid the foundation for a strong economy with a sufficient workforce. However, the decline in births during the 1970s has had profound ramifications. As life expectancy continued to rise (now at 78 years), retired seniors received more payments from Social Security. Reserves from the contributions of the previous generations are slowly getting used up as the contributions of the smaller workforce can’t meet the payouts for retirees. The Social Security reserves are expected to last until 2030 —2035 at the latest. Afterward, benefits might be cut by up to 30 percent.
Why Is This Happening?
Several factors govern the decline in birthrates, one of which is the economic factor. Many couples hold off on having children until they are financially stable. They want to pay off student loans and save up for homeownership before they start a family. However, the states with the lowest birthrates have high median wages.
Some studies suggest that the enjoyment of their current lifestyle is another factor why couples delay getting married and having children. Adults in their late 20s or early 30s choose to wait to be in a better place before they start a family. This isn’t only mean being financially-ready. Many of these adults want to be mentally-ready for any lifestyle changes marriage or starting a family may bring to their lives before they decide to go to the next phase of their lives.
One way to curb or even reverse declining birthrates is by strengthening the family structure. Marrying young may seem like a bad idea, but most married couples are happier than their single counterparts. If you want to start your own family, finding the right person might be difficult, especially when you turn to dating apps, where hook-up culture is the norm. Consider dating within your circle or turn to professional matchmaking services if you are opting to start a serious relationship.
US birthrates are in decline, and this could have profound societal and economic impacts across the country. Unless the younger generation starts having children, the shrinking population might become the new normal in US society.