Report: U.S. Birthrate Falls to 30-Year Low, Young Adults Having Less Sex

Rows of newly born babies in a maternity ward in a US hospital. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
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The birthrate in the U.S. is expected to fall to a 30-year low of 1.77 children per woman in 2017, well below the replacement value of roughly 2.1.

According to the November issue of the U.S. Fertility Forecast published by Demographic Intelligence, births are down “markedly” in 2017 despite a thriving economy and higher employment among young adults.

Total U.S. births are expected to fall to about 3.84 million in 2017, which represents a drop of some 2.8 percent from the 3.95 million births in 2016.

For U.S. women aged 20-24, the birthrate has fallen by a remarkable 8 percent just since 2013, despite the fact that labor force participation has risen by some 2 percent for this demographic group over the same time period.

The Forecast attributes the drop in births principally to fewer births to younger women in their teens and 20s, which in turn is driven by a decline in sexual relations among young adults generally.

The president of Demographic Intelligence (DI), Sam Sturgeon, Ph.D., noted that the decline in births contradicts predictions by the U.S. Census Bureau and others that a growing population of young people and a stronger economy would lead to an increase in births.

“We are seeing just the opposite: a big decline in births,” he said.

Using traditional demographic models, the U.S. Census predicted 4.03 million U.S. births in 2016, significantly below the actual figure of 3.95 million births. In 2017, the gap between predicted and actual births will likely grow even more, to approximately 210,000.

This continued decline in births “coincides with a decline in sex among young adults,” Sturgeon said, involving factors absent in traditional demographic models.

Sturgeon hypothesizes that the drop in sexual activity may be due to the increased use of smartphones and social media—which can replace actual human contact, including sex, among young adults—as well as greater reluctance to enter into a committed relationship.

Although causality is difficult to prove, there is a statistical correlation among falling births for women under 25, less sexual activity, and increases in smartphone usage, the report noted.

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