You probably don’t often think about what fertility is like in other countries but it can be important to know that you aren’t the only one in the world struggling with fertility.
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?
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.
At a panel discussion held at the Thomas S. Monson Center, Pamela S. Perlich argued 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.
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 they see fit, whether that be in starting a family or advancing their careers. With this, we can anticipate a shift in public policy to ensure that these families will be adequately supported as the family age demographic shifts. This brings new definitions of 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.
Utah isn’t the only state suffering from low fertility rates. The whole of America is suffering the same fate as Utah.
If you scroll down your Facebook page right now, it probably seems like just about everyone is pregnant. However, that may not be the case. According to recent data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the United States fertility rate is the lowest ever recorded.
Here’s fertility in the United States by the numbers:
With all the reproductive technologies available, why are women having fewer children, or not having children at all? It could be the fact that fertility treatments are difficult to pay for with its high entry fee.
Everyone knows that starting a family is a huge financial responsibility. After the Great Recession of 2007, the United States saw a drop in the fertility rate that many attributes to financial concerns around raising a child. Young adults had difficulty entering the workforce and finding affordable housing, and therefore decided to put off having children in an economically challenging time. This pattern has been present within periods of economic depression, recession, and surplus in the past, and is suggested to have contributed to the post-WWII Baby Boom. The recession coupled with the costly price of fertility treatment makes the process of becoming pregnant much more difficult.
We no longer live in a country where women are expected to be stay-at-home mothers and homemakers – and with this, our fertility goals are changing. With women empowered to make decisions regarding their career goals, having children is often put on the back burner while a woman grows with her career. Not to say that women are not having children at all, but many women are having children later until they reach the personal and professional goals they aspire for prior to entering motherhood.
President Donald Trump’s suggested immigration policies vastly targeting Hispanics, in addition to existing economic concerns, are projected to discourage fertility among the Hispanic population – a population that has greatly boosted U.S. fertility rates.
In addition to smaller families and more professional women in the workforce, the Population Research Institute predicts significant economic consequences from the dropping U.S. fertility rate. Trump’s crackdown on immigration will cause the replacement rate to drop as the 65-and-older population doubles over the next thirty years. This issue of the growing elder class ensures economic and social pressures in the coming decades. In addition to a growing elder class, economists say that nearly one-third of annual economic growth is driven by new additions to the labor force. With fewer people entering the workforce, we could see a long period of stagnation and depression in the future.
When we say “children are the future” we really mean it! As we evaluate the shifting dynamics of childbearing and family make up in the United States, we must take into account not only the personal goals of couples but the economic consequences of having children or not.
While fertility seems to be dropping in America the other side of the world seems to be having the opposite effect with the increase of fertility in Japan.
Fertility rates rise in Japan
How the economics of Nagicho allowed for more pregnancies
Nagicho, a small town in Japan at the base of Mount Nagi, is abundant with new babies. One local woman, Yuki Fukuda, is a proud mother of three, with her fourth child on the way. Fukuda, along with other mothers, makes up Nagicho’s doubled fertility rate, increasing from 1.4 in 2005 to 2.8 in 2014. Other statistics suggest the rate has fallen again but nonetheless stays above the national numbers. The town’s boost has nothing to do with Mount Nagi waters, instead owes its success entirely to local government incentives, which highlight three key points.
The birth rate crisis is not just Nagicho, it actually proves to be a persistent problem through all of Japan. Some statistics show that deaths outnumbered births by a whopping 300,000 in 2016 with projections to only get worse.
To start to tackle the national issue, the prime minister pledged extra public spending--in a budget recently approved by the Cabinet--for child care to raise the fertility rate. In addition, small towns such as Nagicho, who “has lost a third of its population since 1955” have taken matters into their own hands.
Women like Mrs. Fukuda receive as “celebratory” gift after giving birth. This gift is equivalent to $2,682, alongside received subsidized car seats amongst other baby care products. As her children grow, she will receive a stipend for secondary schooling, used to provide babysitting and transportation services.
In regard to healthcare, most individuals are required to pay 30% of their bills, while the government pays the other 70%. To assist with the economic burdens of parenthood, the Nagicho local government covers the 30% for children.
Improvements made to the town, in general, are simultaneously helping those who want to have children. Volunteers work hard to staff the town’s two nurseries, promoting secure childcare. In order to further promote new renovations for the growing town, new businesses receive land rent-free and new homes are offered at subsidized rates. A local government official, Yoshitaka Kumagai, states that at least three companies have moved to the area since 2014.
These creative and long-term changes are apart of the town’s vision to create a happy and healthy place to raise children, stress-free. According to Mrs. Fukuda, this sense of community is crucial: “Mothers feel safe having more children; it’s not easy to create those conditions.”
More areas are hoping to follow Nagicho’s example. However, it is worth considering whether Nagicho is an anomaly phenomenon, rendered impossibly capable of duplication. A few mothers have argued that perhaps some would not have considered children in another location (or at least not as many). In the end, while “the money helps”, it is Nagicho’s special charm that proves to be the number one reason for fertility success.
It seems like the encouraging attitude with the financial aid provided by the town of Nagicho helps with the fertility rate. America isn’t so forward thinking. But with some elbow grease and a constant communication toward women’s rights to the government, we can slowly change the views of America to be more progressive and be more accepting toward women and their physical health.