Americans are having fewer children and it might be a good thing for the economy—according to a study by a nonprofit called Negative Population Growth, Inc.
Between 2007, which was the year before the Great Recession, and 2016, the number of U.S. births dropped by 338,000, or 8.7 percent, the organization cites in its “How Millennials are Slowing U.S. Population Growth and Enhancing Sustainability” study published last Tuesday.
During the same period, the national fertility rate of births per 1,000 women of childbearing age from 15 to 44 years old fell from 69.3 to 62, a historic low. Birth rates for women under 30 also reached record lows in 2016, the study states.
Negative Population Growth is a membership-based organization founded in 1972 to “educate the American public and political leaders about the devastating effects of overpopulation on our environment, resources and standard of living,” according to its website. It cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics to illustrate the U.S.’s “baby bust.”
The paper acknowledges that demographers are “freaked out” by the falling birth rate, but that economists “have made with piece” with a shrinking population not necessarily being bad. “While GDP may slow,” the study states, referring to the government’s main measure of economic growth, “a better measure of the country’s economic health–GDP per capita–can benefit. This is especially relevant in a world where robots, AI and other technologies threaten the jobs of many Americans.”
The study also acknowledges that fewer children means fewer workers contributing to Social Security and Medicare programs, but that parents in smaller families can invest more in each child’s education, “increasing their productivity and making up for the fact that there are fewer of them.”
“Just look at China, Germany, and Japan–countries where vibrant economies have co-existed with below replacement fertility rates for decades,” the paper states.
Declining birth rate could mean a smaller workforce, reduction in tax revenues and fewer seats filled in classrooms. Immigrants can fill in some of the gaps, but fewer people are entering the U.S. from Mexico, where a large influx came from.
Unlike their parents, Millennials likely will have fewer children, rent rather than buy a home, often owe large amounts in student loans and may not spend lavishly, due to their worldview shaped by the Great Recession.
“Negative growth in both population and consumption is nothing less than a perfect storm,” the study states. “Should it continue, NPG’s goal of a sustainable U.S. economy, in which the utilization of scarce resources equals the ability of our eco-system to replenish those resources, will be attainable.”