by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Lyman Stone of the American Enterprise Institute explores consequences of today’s low American fertility rate.
Fertility rates have fallen around the world over the last decade—even in countries with generous social welfare states, which experts had long expected to be holdouts in the face of fertility declines. But while demographers often talk about this change in terms of “fertility rates” or “births per woman,” another way to tally the total is in terms of missing births. That is, if the population of women who might have kids changed the way it did over the last decade, and if fertility rates had remained at their 2008 levels (the last time we had replacement-rate fertility in America), how many more babies would have been born?
The answer is 5.8 million babies. Since births in the U.S. actually tend to run around 4 million per year, that’s almost like saying nobody had a baby for a year and a half. …
… The lion’s share of “missing babies” would have been born to Hispanic moms. That’s because in 2008, Hispanic moms could expect to have about 2.8 kids on average; now, they can expect to have about 2. Fertility rates declining by almost a thirdis a huge change, resulting in a loss of 2.7 million Hispanic babies that would otherwise have been born.
Non-Hispanic whites make up the second biggest category of missing babies, with almost 2 million missing births. But that’s a bit of an illusion: in fact, non-Hispanic white fertility rates experienced the least amount of decline of any group (from 1.9 children per woman to 1.6; Asian-Americans have always been lower, falling from 1.8 to 1.5). But the number of potential non-Hispanic white moms is very large. …
… Many people mistakenly believe that higher birth rates will delay America becoming a minority-majority country, but this is wrong. Because racial birth rates tend to converge towards each other over time while sharing similar cycles due to economic and other shocks, increases in birth rates tend to yield relatively more babies among minority moms.