Elon Musk is urging people to have more children. 

According to CNBC, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO said “If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble. Mark my words.” 

While the future of civilization is hard to accurately predict, Musk may be on to something. Americans are having fewer children. 

The CDC reports that in 2020 3,605,201 babies were born in the U.S., down four percent from  2019 and the lowest number of babies born since 1979. 

Pew Research Center highlighted the pandemic as being a possible culprit for this drop. When looking at babies born in December of 2020, babies that would have been conceived at the start of the pandemic, there was “an 8% decline from the previous December, suggesting that women may have postponed pregnancies in response to the ongoing public health crisis.”

While there was a significant drop during the pandemic, which Pew Research Center cites as being made up of numerous factors that have made women reconsider having children, including unemployment, school/child care closures, isolation and fear about the future, the number of babies born each year has been steadily declining for much longer. 

And there are a variety of reasons for this, according to Pew Research Center, including the Great Recession and links between economic conditions, income and fertility, increased educational attainment, and delays in marriage. 

Maryland has also seen a decline with 68,523 babies being born in 2020, compared to 74,316 in 2000, a nearly 8 percent decline.

Fertility rates nationwide have also decreased steadily. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), fertility rates are determined by looking at a given year and the total number of children that a woman could have between the ages of 15-44, factoring in each age group’s age-specific fertility rates and then totaling these age-specific rates over a five year time period.

Fertility rate is one of the most important factors to look at when determining the future of a population. According to Britannica, “The single most important factor in population growth is the total fertility rate (TFR).”

Fertility rates in Maryland have seen a decrease in recent years. Maryland in 2000 had a fertility rate of 61.9, which was lower than the United States’ national average of 67.5. 

The state’s fertility rate has since decreased, with Maryland’s 2020 fertility rate at 57.7. However, 20 years later, Maryland’s average is higher than the national average of 56.0.

Fertility rates across Maryland counties vary, but some have decreased rather dramatically. Worcester County, Baltimore City, and Wicomico County all saw a decrease since 2000, while Queen Anne’s, Caroline, and Dorchester all saw an increase. 

Click image for detailed county report

Fertility rates, when paired with mortality and migration projections, can aid in the estimation of future population size, predict demographic shifts, and future age distributions, says Population Education

In 2019 the United Nations published “The World Population Prospects 2019” which found that while the global population is predicted to increase by over 2 billion people within the next 30 years, the overall global fertility rate will continue to decrease, “The global fertility rate, which fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 in 2019, is projected to decline further to 2.2 in 2050.” 

The trend of fewer live births each year is worldwide. China, the most populous country in the world, saw a 15% decrease in newborn births in 2020, according to Reuters

The U.S. has already fallen below the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime now sits at 1.64 in the U.S.  

And as Elon Musk proposed, this may not be a good thing. Decreasing the number of people born each year has the potential to have negative effects on a country. According to the United Nations, lower potential support ratios, which compares people at working ages to those over the age of 65, “underscore the potential impact of population aging on the labor market and economic performance, as well as the financial pressures that many countries will face in the coming decades as they seek to build and maintain public systems of health care, pensions and social protection for older persons.” 

This article was originally published on CNS Maryland.


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