The fertility rate in the U.S. has dropped below the rate necessary to maintain the current population, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to a new report released on January 10, the national total fertility rate is down to 1.7655.
With the fertility rate defined as “the total number of births in an area to the population of women most at risk of childbearing,” that means that Americans are having just 1,765.5 births per 10,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 (based on 2017 data). The current rate is 16 percent lower than the minimum 2,100 births needed to replace the population without immigration.
The latest decrease in the national rate marks the biggest decline in recent years, down from 1.8205 in 2016 and 1.8435 in 2015. Overall, the fertility rate in the U.S. has been dropping steadily over the last seven years.
Thursday’s report also broke it down into individual state fertility rates, with South Dakota having the highest at 2,227 births per 10,000 women and Washington, D.C. having the lowest at 1,421. South Dakota and Utah were the only two states above the minimum rate for maintaining the population.
While the CDC didn’t provide any explanation for the decline, experts believe that the growing trend of women delaying childbirth until later in life along with a decrease in teen pregnancies could be to blame. The 2017 rate of births among teens was down to 18.8 births per 1,000 women, a historic low.
Despite the ongoing downward trend, some medical experts remain optimistic that the fertility rate will turn itself around in time. Donna Strobino, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News, “It may not be all doom and gloom. I think it may stabilize once women who have been postponing pregnancy have the births they are planning to have.”