The falling birth rate in the United States may not be an indication that people don't want to have children, rather, it's a sign that economic decline and fertility problems have taken their toll.
The fertility rate fell to 1.86 births per woman in 2013, down from 1.88 in 2012 and 1.89 in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The birth rate has been steadily decreasing since 2007, with 2013 being the lowest year since 1986. A stagnant economy that is still recovering from the Great Recession and older marriage are both partially to blame.
According to Pew Research Center, there is a correlation between the severity of the impact of the recession on individual states and the recent birth rates of those states. For instance, North Dakota, which had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 3.1 percent in 2008, experienced a small increase in births (0.7 percent). Arizona had the second greatest decline in personal income in 2007, and the largest birth rate decrease of all the states in 2008.
Rick and Melissa Myrick are one couple who would like to have kids, but don't feel like it is financially feasible, The Washington Post reported. Soon after getting married, they both lost their jobs and decided to wait to have children until they were more financially stable. After deciding to try, Melissa learned that she had a medical issue that made pregnancy difficult. She tried several different techniques before learning that in vitro-fertilization was her best option. The procedure would cost at least $15,000.
Rick, who works as a union electrician, struggles to find steady work, and they don't see the procedure as financially viable under the current circumstances.
“'And I watch the clock,' Melissa says, knowing that most doctors believe fertility begins a hasty decline after age 35. Any delay will not improve her odds of getting pregnant.”
Melissa, who is 33, is not alone in her situation. About 6 percent of the U.S. population had problems with fertility in 2013, although the number dropped from 1982, when about 8.5 percent experienced infertility, according to a National Health Statistics report.
“The level of infertility is being counteracted by their pursuit of medical help to have a child,” Anjani Chandra, the lead author of the report, told USA Today.
The current average age of first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that female fertility starts decreasing gradually at age 32, with a sharp drop off at age 37. IVF usage has increased in recent years, with 2,000 more babies born through IVF in 2012 than in 2011, according to CNN, and the procedure is expensive and out of reach for many.
Tara Holmes Williams and her husband Christopher, another couple who struggle with infertility, turned to the crowdfunding site GoFundMe to raise money for IVF after spending thousands of dollars on other failed treatments. They raised the $20,000 needed for the treatment, and Tara is now five months pregnant, according to Fox News.
Another couple, Skye Pearce and Bryan Haas, who are both in their 40s, have never felt financially secure enough to have children, although they want them.
“When we were talking about having kids and planning on having kids … we were extremely paranoid about the what-ifs,” Haas told CNBC. “What if I lose my job? What if this happens? What if that happens?”
Still, as the economy improves, fertility rates will likely improve as well.
“History teaches us that there will be a bounce back,” D'Vera Cohn, a senior writer at Pew Research Center, told CNBC. “But whether it will be a full recovery, I don't know.”