The U.S. fertility rate has fallen to a record low, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday.

The CDC’s new report, “Births: Provisional Data for 2023,” shows that the fertility rate fell to 1.62 births per woman in 2023 – a decline of 2% from 2022 and a new all-time low.

“The provisional number of births for the United States in 2023 was 3,591,328, down 2% from 2022,” the report states. “The total fertility rate was 1,616.5 births per 1,000 women in 2023.”

It noted that birth rates fell for females in age groups 15-19 through 35-39 and were unchanged for females ages 10-14 and for women ages 40-44 and 45-49.

The report was released by the National Center for Health Statistics and is a part of the National Vital Statistics System Rapid Release which “provides timely vital statistics for public health surveillance.”

The U.S. fertility rate has been below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 for over a decade now. Each woman must have an average number of 2.1 children for a population to replace itself. If the fertility rate falls below 2.1, the population – absent high levels of immigration – will begin to shrink.

After reaching a high of 3.75 births per woman in the late 1950s, the U.S. fertility rate dropped precipitously through the 60s before bottoming out under the replacement rate in the 1970s. After that, the fertility rate recovered slowly until the late 2000s, before beginning a steady decline that continues today.

Photo Credit: The WSJ.

Forebodingly, no country that has had its fertility rate fall below 2.1 has ever been able to increase – and sustain it – back above the replacement rate. In other words, once a nation falls into a “low fertility trap” – it stays there.

In the book Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, social researcher Darrell Bricker and journalist John Ibbitson write,

The great defining event of the twenty-first century – one of the great defining events in human history – will occur in three decades, give or take, when the global population starts to decline.

Once that decline begins, it will never end.

There are various reasons for declining fertility worldwide – and especially in western nations. In part, the widespread availability of contraception, abortion and sterilization procedures has made it possible for women to give birth to fewer children.

But one of the most important factors in our declining fertility rate has been a decades-long decline in marriage rates. Generally, when people get married, they have children. If people don’t get married, they don’t have children.

As Conn Carroll, commentary editor for the Washington Examiner, has pointed out,

The math is simple. Women who get married earlier in life, start giving birth earlier and end up with larger families. Half of women who get married in their early 20s end up having at least three children, compared to just 33% of women who get married after 30. More than 60% of women who get married in their 30s have two children or less.

“Single women on average have 1.15 children over their lifetime, married women have 2.12,” Carroll adds.

Ibbitson and Bricker note that the fertility rate among millennials is especially low.

“Between 2007 and 2012, the birth rate among Americans who came of age after 2000 dropped by 15 percent, to the lowest birth rate ever recorded in the United States: 0.95, less than one baby for every mother,” they write, adding,

These women, when they do have children, will have fewer children than they would have had otherwise, which means the generation produced by the millennials will be smaller than the millennial generation itself.

And the fertility rate for Gen Z is likely to be even lower. All this adds up to a bleak future – for both the West, and the rest of the world. In fact, humanity is set to embark upon an “unprecedented decline.”

Photo CreditThe New York Times

As Ibbitson and Bricker somberly foretell,

Two or three generations from now, with each generation possessing only one or two children per family – or, as often as not, none – people could be very lonely. Family reunions won’t fill a living room. The swings will sit empty, rusting. No children screaming up and down the street.

This is what awaits the future of humanity. It’s what awaits us because we’ve collectively disregarded God’s command in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply” (ESV).

It is vital that we remember, ancient wisdom – especially divinely inspired wisdom – is the best wisdom of all. God loves us and wants what’s best for us. He made us for love – to give it and receive it.

That’s why married couples with children are far and away the happiest people around. And for married couples, the fruit of that love is supposed to result in children.

As the article above shows, the world is in great need of more high-quality marriages and more children. You can learn more about why young adults today should get married from Professor Brad Wilcox’s new book Get Married: Why Americans Should Defy the Elites, Forge Strong Families and Save Civilization.

As a pro-family ministry, Focus on the Family recognizes the tremendous value of every person, every child and every marriage. To strengthen your family, check out our marriage and parenting resources.

You can also check out Focus on the Family’s Option Ultrasound program here.

Related articles and resources:

Brad Wilcox Exhorts Young People to ‘Get Married’

China’s Population Drops by 2 Million in 2023 Due to Record Low Birth Rate

Evangelicals Can Heed This One Trend from Mormons and Muslims

Discarding Genesis 1, U.S. Population Set to Decline This Century Amid World Population Collapse

Focus on the Family: Marriage

Focus on the Family: Parenting

Focus on the Family: Pro-Life

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