Birthrates are on the Decline: Here’s Why Couples are Reconsidering Kids


Within the past few years, U.S. birthrates have taken a dip. The country is seeing a record number of couples—specifically younger ones—who have expressed little interest in starting a family. There are many explanations as to why (including the pandemic), but the dominating reason is that couples just don’t want kids. It’s a departure from the norm—and a big shift away from traditional social standards.

Let’s take a closer look at why birthrates are declining and how they pan out for the future.

Birthrates have been on the decline

This isn’t breaking news—birthrates in the United States have been steadily falling for over a decade. Young adults are more likely than ever to say they don’t plan on having kids. One study found a seven percent increase in survey participants who are not likely to have children. The rise in this answer occurred between 2018 and 2021.

Meanwhile, parents have stayed consistent with their choice to not have more children. The same study reports 74 percent of parents less than 50 years old don’t plan on having more. Parents between the ages of 40 and 49 are less likely to try for another child than younger couples.

Why aren’t people having children?

Participants in the above survey cited many different reasons why they’re not interested in having kids. Many of those reasons tie back to the nature of their relationship. People with a significant other said they probably won’t have children due to their or their partner’s age. An even smaller percentage reported their partner doesn’t want children.

Others said poor access to child care heavily factored into their decision. Couples would have to find a care provider while both parents are at work. Not only is child care hard to come by, the services available can become astronomically expensive. This places financial strain on low-income households. In fact, the cost of raising children was an overarching answer, especially for partners already worried about their financial situation.

Out of all the reasons for not having children, the overwhelming response was that nonparents simply don’t want them. In the survey, the lack of desire accounted for 56 percent of participants who aren’t likely to have kids. The remaining 43 percent cited one of the reasons mentioned above.

The pandemic was a big factor in choosing to be childless

The dip in U.S. birthrates aligns with the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic and public health concerns made nonparents either delay family plans or reconsider them altogether. Millions lost their jobs within the first year, marking the second recession millennials have endured in their adult lives.

When COVID-19 devastated the economy, young couples were forced to make hard decisions about how to use their limited funds. For many, having kids in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t an option.

The pandemic also triggered a global public health crisis, the outcome of which is still up in the air. Couples don’t want to risk an outbreak jeopardizing their baby’s health—or their own, for that matter. They’re waiting to see how the pandemic plays out, leaving couples to wonder when, exactly, it will be safe to have kids. The trail of uncertainty left by COVID-19 has been enough for some couples to question whether they should bring a child into the world at all.

Will birthrates rebound or continue to go down?

There’s good news—birthrates in the United States are expected to go back up after the pandemic. Couples who are postponing family plans will likely have children all at once, resulting in a baby boom like the one seen after WWII. Expanding the family might be on hold for now, but those who really want kids still plan to have them at a later date.

Future bills could sway young couples’ opinions about having kids. The federal government has discussed passing legislature that would grant universal child care and four weeks of paid family leave to new parents. These financial incentives would make it possible for couples to have kids where money was their primary concern.

The end to COVID-19 is still unknown, as is the time when birthrates will bounce back. But the pandemic won’t last forever (hopefully), and there are still plenty of couples itching for the opportunity to start a family. Regardless of the pandemic, many people are set on not having kids. If you’re among them, remember that you don’t need a reason—your desire not to have them is reason enough.

Abhishek Chauhan

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