The Wall Street Journal: Number of babies born in the U.S. drops to 30-year low

American women are having children at the lowest rate on record, with the number of babies born in the U.S. last year dropping to a 30-year low, federal figures released Thursday showed.

Some 3.85 million babies were born last year, down 2% from 2016 and the lowest number since 1987, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The general fertility rate for women age 15 to 44 was 60.2 births per 1,000 women—the lowest rate since the government began tracking it more than a century ago, said Brady Hamilton, a statistician at the center.

The figures suggest that a number of women who put off having babies after the 2007-09 recession are forgoing them altogether. Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, estimates 4.8 million fewer babies were born after the recession than would have been born had fertility rates stayed at prerecession levels.

“Every year I expect the number of births to go up and they don’t,” said Prof. Johnson.

Read: Women and the trouble with retirement

This dearth of births could exacerbate the problems of America’s aging population. Many baby boomers are in or are near retirement, leaving a smaller share of young workers to pay into Social Security and Medicare. That is creating a funding imbalance that strains the social safety net that supports the elderly.

An expanded version of this report can be found at WSJ.com

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