Utah is the fastest growing state in the United States. With Americans venturing to Utah for a variety of reasons--an excellent climate and resource-rich industry, just to name a few--it's surprising to discover that the fertility rate in Utah has continued to drop for eight straight years. Now, Utah's fertility rate is at a historical low.
So what gives?
The population of Utah is growing, but not because of more births
Birth rates in Utah peaked right before the great recession of 2007. For the past eight years, however, the fertility rate has followed the national trend and plummeted, leaving the average woman in Utah having 2.29 children in her lifetime.
Pamela S. Perlich, Ph.D., the Director of Demographic Research at the Kem C. Gardner Institute, says, "Again, we see people moving to the state, birth keeps falling, fertility rates keep falling." This interesting demographic dynamic leaves many searching for a reason why.
Scholars and professionals point to education and economic factors for explanation
Perlich, at a panel discussion held at the Thomas S. Monson Center, introduced that both men and women in Utah are now attending college and attaining high-level degrees and working and serving LDS missions. She sites these ideas as to potential factors in the declining fertility rate.
With women especially dedicating more of their lives to education and a professional life than ever before, something's got to give, and many times that involves delaying building a family. With this, many women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to have children--a time in life with more professional and economic stability for mothers.
Lower fertility rates and smaller families could be the new normal in the U.S.
It's important to note that there is little change in women's desire to have children or start a family, but the timing of when to start is shifting. Women have more active roles professionally and have been liberated to make decisions where she sees fit, whether that be in starting her family or advancing her career.
With this, we can anticipate a shift in public policy to ensure that these families be adequately supported as family age demographic shifts. This brings new definitions to affordable housing, health care, and education to the forefront in the coming years for policymakers to take into account when creating policies to benefit families.