The Birth Rate Puzzle

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: Jelleke Vanooteghem / Pexels

For the first time in seven years, the birth rate in the United States has seen an uptick. And that’s good news… up to a point.

According to a new Report from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average birth rate increased 1% in relation to 2020, with the birth of 3,659,289 babies.

Looking across the nation’s racial and ethnic groups, the birth rate increased 2% for Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women. But it fell 2.4% and 2.5% respectively for black and Asian women, and 3.2% for Native American women.

Students of population growth, demographers, have been concerned for years about the stagnation in birth rates in the United States: a country that is unable to regenerate its population, that is, its workforce, is destined for economic collapse sooner or later.

If we add restrictive immigration policies to that, we are facing a perfect demographic storm.

Although an average increase in the birth rate seems like good news at first glance, the reality is that it may be an anomaly caused in part by the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and even by the fear of global warming, according to the results of a survey conducted by the prestigious Pew Research Center.

A growing proportion of American adults who are not yet parents said in a recent survey that they are unlikely to ever have children, their reasons ranging from simply not wanting to have them to concerns about climate change and the environment.

Some 44% of non-parents ages 18-49 say they are not very likely to have children someday, an increase of 7 percentage points from 37% in 2018. Even more: 74% of adults under 50 who are already parents say they are unlikely to have any more children, virtually unchanged from 2018, according to Pew.

The worrying thing, at least from a demographic point of view, is that the majority of adults (56%) who do not plan to have children do so for a very simple reason: they simply do not want them. For the rest (43%), there are other reasons: medical, financial, lack of a partner, age, global situation, etc.

If the assessment is correct in the sense that this rise in the birth rate is temporary, it is an unbeatable reason to recalibrate the immigration policies of the United States: The country needs new blood, fresh labor. It is a great argument to defend a more generous and dignified immigration policy from the point of view of national security and economic security. Will they understand it in Congress?