August 20, 2019

The American Baby Recession

“Americans are having fewer children, and the latest news is that the U.S. birth rate has dipped to a 32-year low. A cross-party coalition in Washington thinks political intervention can mitigate the decline, but pump the brakes. Declining U.S. birth rates are the product of large cultural forces that the federal government can’t buy off with subsidies or income transfers.

The decline in birth rates reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn’t all bad news. The birth rate among teens age 15-19 fell 7% last year, to 17.4 births for every 1,000 women, down from 61.8 in 1991. This should mean more upward mobility.

Yet millennials are having fewer children as they delay starting families into their 30s. Below-replacement birth rates mean more strain on entitlement programs like Social Security and less ingenuity from human capital. Labor and investment drive economic growth, and if there are fewer people, capital will have to power more of the U.S. economy. More immigrants will also be essential if we don’t want a declining population.

These days both parties seem to think the first response should be income redistribution. The theory is that it’s too expensive to raise children, and thus government must subsidize families. The left wants universal child care, paid parental leave, a larger child-tax credit. A faction of the right supports much of that agenda and payments for women who exit the labor force to raise children.”

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