On the brink of collapse: America's declining population growth

Louis T. March
May 17, 2021
Reproduced with Permission

Before the 1965 Immigration Act, the US was approaching zero population growth. The "land of the free and home of the brave," as we call ourselves, has had below-replacement fertility since the early 1970s. We now see that fifty years of importing a new people merely delayed the inevitable. Immigration, which has slackened of late, is no longer a viable solution to either population decline or our mounting economic woes. Those of recent immigrant background have clambered aboard the below-replacement fertility bandwagon. Besides, there are not enough jobs to go around. Bottom line: Americans are having fewer children every year. In the 2020 year of Covid, twenty-five of fifty states had more deaths than births.

This is nothing new to demographers. But the New Normal has rocketed to public attention with a report titled Births: Provisional Data for 2020 from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report has once and for all discredited a smug commentariat's early predictions that the Covid-19 lockdown would lead to a baby boom. In fact, it has been just the opposite. Births were down significantly in December 2020, nine months after the lockdowns began. There is no doubt about it - the virus, the lockdown and its resulting economic shock caused millions of couples to delay having children.

From 2019 to 2020, the number of US births decreased 4%, from 3.75 million to 3.6 million. For the past six years (2015-2020) births have declined an average of 2% per year.

No ethnic or racial group was spared. In the same 2019-2020 period, the number of births declined among all: 8% for Asian-Americans, 6% for American Indian/Alaskan Natives, 4% for non-Hispanic Whites, 4% for non-Hispanic Blacks, 3% for Hispanics, and 2% for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders.

The corresponding decline in general fertility rates among these groups was 9% for Asian-Americans; 7% for American Indian/Alaska Natives; 4% for non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks, and Hispanics; and 3% for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders.

There was a precipitous decline (8%) in the teenage birthrate (ages 15-19). Births to teenagers have been falling since 1991 and have declined 80% in the last 20 years. The government has long considered teen pregnancy a public health issue, as teenage births are usually out of wedlock, with subpar prenatal care and dim prospects for a stable family to rear children.

Most of these teenagers are scarcely getting by, with low skills and limited incomes, so this particular trend is not due to any improved economic status. Surveys show that today's teens are less sexually active than their predecessors, have easy access to contraception and abortion, are ceaselessly tethered to their digital devices, vulnerable to a toxic popular culture centered on self-gratification and crushing peer pressure, while bedeviled by drug abuse, pornography, and a host of other distractions. Things have changed a bit since yours truly came of age!

In 2010, the average age of females at the time of the birth of their first child was 23. In 2020 it was 27.

In that 10-year span, there was a 6% birthrate decline for ages 20-24 and a 4% decline for ages 25-29. These are record lows. The 30-34 demographic declined 4%; ages 35-39, 2%; and ages 40-44, 2%. The birthrate for those aged 45-49 remained the same. As couples delay having children, the 45-49 window is where the biological clock runs out.

University of New Hampshire demographer Kenneth Johnson has stated the obvious, saying: "The [US] birthrate is the lowest it's ever been."

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the overall US birth rate has fallen almost 20%. Yes, the population continues to grow, though in the last half-decade growth is at the slowest rate since the Census began in 1790. As the baby boom generation passes from the scene, there will be successively smaller generations to replace them. Slow growth will yield to no growth, then negative growth.

So America is ageing. Its population will start to decrease. While the elderly do not yet outnumber the young, we are ineluctably headed for that inverted demographic pyramid. Every day there are more elderly to take care of and fewer workers to support them.

Something's got to give. The ageing of America is upon us just when decades of fiscal profligacy are coming home to roost. The US debt-to-GDP ratio is 127% and rising. In fiscal 2020 the US government collected $3.5 trillion in revenues, or $10,457 per person, while spending $6.6 trillion, or $19,962 per person. The US National Debt is $27.7 trillion and counting.

This fiscal madness is a grave threat to American family life. How? The US dollar is the world's dominant reserve currency, so all countries hold dollars for trade. Reckless US spending inevitably weakens the dollar. Consequently there is a budding global dedollarisation movement.

Should that prevail and the dollar is replaced as the dominant reserve currency, dollar purchasing power will collapse. It's called inflation. That, coupled with a shrinking workforce due to below-replacement fertility, will mean crunch time. An economic downturn? We ain't seen nothing yet. The title of Pat Buchanan's superb 2011 book Suicide of a Superpower comes to mind.

If you want to start a family, you should do so as soon as possible.