American women delivered the fewest number of babies last year than since 1987. Instead of a baby boom, we may be in a baby bust as Millennial women, in their prime baby-making years, are delaying motherhood.  

According to new data from the Center of Disease Control (CDC), there were 3.8 million births in the U.S. in 2017 – down 2 percent from 2016 and the lowest number in three decades. 

Here are more startling facts:

  • The fertility rate fell to a record low of 60.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

  • Birthrates fell for nearly every age group but rose for women in their early 40s

  • Teen birth rates are down 7 percent from 2016 continuing a downward trend that has cut teen birth rates by 55 percent since 2007

  • Births fell among women in their 20s and 30s between 1 percent and 6 percent – the largest decline was among young women 20-24 years old.

  • Birth rates fell for women of almost every racedeclined 2 percent for Hispanic women, 3 percent for white women, and 2 percent for Asian women, but was relatively unchanged for black women

Birth rates in the U.S. have generally been in decline for decades with spikes and dips that correspond to economic changes, generational sizes, and other factors.

The most recent recession is far in our rearview mirror, the economy is picking up steam, and unemployment levels are at historic lows. The big question is why birth rates are still falling?

The CDC posits three explanations:

  1. Millennials Delaying Marriage – Millennial women postponed both marriage and kids because the economy was weak and employment hard to find. Despite the recovery, many Millennials still do not think they are in an economic position to start families. According to Pewtwo-thirds of never-married Millennials (65 percent) say they would like to get married someday, but about a third (29 percent) say they are not financially prepared.
  2. Immigration – Immigrant moms deliver a quarter of U.S.-born babies. Asian immigrants make up a larger proportion of immigrants and they have fewer children than other immigrant groups.
  3. Contraception – Women are increasingly using IUDs and other long-acting forms of contraception.

Birth rates matter because a society that isn't growing will suffer economicallyFewer families and declining household formation lead to declining spending on products and services from cribs, clothes, and education to homes, cars, and durable household goods. U.S. businesses which supply diapers, formula, and baby furniture are all feeling the pinch.

Our workforce also loses its infusion of young fresh workers. Baby boomers are aging and leaving the workforce. Not only does that leave even fewer workers for the available jobs, but it spells trouble for an unsustainable Social Security system that already depends on over 2 workers supporting the benefits of each retiree. That balance will only grow worse.

One bright spot is the rise in 40+ moms. As women delay childbearing for career or financial stability, advances in medicine make it possible to have children later in life With the challenges of infertility, there's no guarantee that technology can overcome nature.