The birthrate in the United States has been declining for the past four years. And in 2018, it hit a 32-year low, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on Wednesday.
Using birth certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the CDC reports that there were 3.788 million births last year, down two percent from 2017. The recent drop makes the birthrate the lowest that it’s been since 1986.
And the birthrate isn’t the only thing declining. The report found that the U.S. fertility rate has also once again decreased. In 2018, the rate dropped two percent, hitting an all-time low of 1,728 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age.
This puts the fertility rate well below what’s known as the replacement level, which is the rate needed for the population to replenish itself and remain stable. The replacement level is currently 2,100 births per 1,000 women, which is a rate that the CDC says the U.S. has generally failed to reach since 1971.
Some experts worry that a lower fertility rate could cause economic distress as there won’t be enough young people to support the aging generation. “Long term it means we’re going to have an increasing proportion of older people,” Dr. John W. Rowe, a professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told NBC News, adding that it will “have a significant impact on the labor force.”
However, there is some good news to come from the new research. When broken down by age group, the birthrate dropped the most (seven percent) for women ages 15 to 19, resulting in a record low number of teen pregnancies in 2018. Additionally, the rate of cesarean delivery, or C-section births, dropped about one percent.
“It’s perhaps not as gloom and doom as some think it is,” Donna Strobino, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said to NBC. She believes that the downward trend may reverse itself as women are simply putting off having children until later in life due to their careers.