So it’s official: we aren’t making many babies. Or rather, we haven’t been since the recession hit several years ago, and soon the United States national birth rate is due for its greatest low point in 25 years. After reaching a peak in 2007 with an average of2.12 births (just before the crash occurred), it has since fallen 12%, and is estimated to hit record lows of 1.87 by the end of the year. Forecasters for consumer and pharmaceutical companies predict that it will not rise again for at least another two years, as well.
This in itself is nothing too surprising: there’s nothing unusual about birth rates falling when a country in the midst of an economic slump. But what is interesting to note is that exact rates of reduction in births are not uniform across the country. In fact, one of the states with the lowest birth rates is Connecticut.
As a point of comparison, the average fertility rate for the collective nation, according to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, was 13.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Connecticut specifically, however, fell well below that average at 11.1 births per 1,000 women. Connecticut also ranked a mere 45th in overall birth rate amongst U.S. states and territories in 2008; while the highest-ranking states such as Utah and Idaho averaged 2.597 and 2.473 births per woman, respectively, Connecticut remained stranded at only 1.875.
What is it about New England that dulls the baby-making instinct? As usual with this sort of thing, there is no clear, singular answer. Demographics, however, may be a probable cause. The lifestyle choices typical among residents of New England states simply aren’t conducive to regular child-rearing. For instance, red states (of which the majority of New England is not) tend to have above-average fertility rates. States where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a strong presence, such as Utah, have similarly high birth rates. And it doesn’t exactly help Connecticut residents that those who do decide to have kids will soon find it to be unbearably expensive, what with the region having the country’s most infamously high taxes.
On the plus side, fewer births overall means fewer teenage pregnancies, a former threat that is recently being battered into submission, with Connecticut and New England as a whole leading the charge. Whether it is due to the economy or other factors, the teen birth rate for the United States currently stands at a record low of 34.3 births for every 1,000 teen women (a drastic reduction of 44% down from 1991). Connecticut’s teen birth rate, by comparison, is just under 19 births, with many of the other New England states having similarly low figures to their name. Mississippi hosts the most teen pregnancies at 55 per 1,000 teens, but even that statistic is falling; it is a clear decline from 64.2 births tracked in 2008.
Still, the general lack of births at this time may have future consequences. One needs only to look to Japan – a nation that has spent years struggling to replace its shrinking population in the face of economic downturn – to know the potential damage low fertility rates can do, even in the short term. The lack of a younger population means that a state’s potential future workforce grows smaller and smaller. Theoretically, this could worsen the state’s economic position even more so than before; even a single generation without an ample supply of new workers could drastically impede future prospects for financial and industrial growth. It’s true what those after-school specials used to say: children are our future, and if no one is having children, then we may be left without a future at all.