Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why.

Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children. So we asked them.

Wanting more leisure time and personal freedom; not having a partner yet; not being able to afford child-care costs — these were the top reasons young adults gave for not wanting or not being sure they wanted children

.. But it’s also a story of economic insecurity. Young people have record student debt, many graduated in a recession and many can’t afford homes — all as parenthood has become more expensive. Women in particular pay an earnings penalty for having children.

.. “We want to invest more in each child to give them the best opportunities to compete in an increasingly unequal environment,”

..  “There is no getting around the fact that the relationship between gender equality and fertility is very strong: There are no high-fertility countries that are gender equal.”

.. The total fertility rate — which estimates how many children women will have based on current patterns — is down to 1.8, below the replacement level in developed countries of 2.1.

.. The United States seems to have almost caught up with most of the rest of the industrialized world’s low fertility rates. It used to have higher fertility for reasons like more teenage pregnancies, more unintended pregnancies and high fertility among Hispanic immigrants. But those trends have recently reversed, in part because of increased use of long-acting birth control methods like IUDs.

.. One of the biggest factors was personal: having no desire for children and wanting more leisure time

.. had such high expectations for parents that she wasn’t sure she could meet them

.. Financial concerns also led people to have fewer children than what they considered to be ideal: 64 percent said it was because child care was too expensive, 43 percent said they waited too long because of financial instability and about 40 percent said it was because of a lack of paid family leave.

.. she wants to pay off her student loans and, most of all, be able to live in a safe neighborhood.

“A lot of people, especially communities of color, can’t really afford that now,” she said. “I’m just apprehensive about going back to poverty

.. Female fertility begins significantly decreasing at age 32.

.. Only 1 percent of female survey respondents said they had frozen their eggs — but almost half said they would if not for the cost.

.. Researchers say the United States could adopt policies that make it easier for people to both raise children and build careers. Government spending on child care for young children has the strongest effect. Policies that encourage parents to share child care help, too. Germany and Japan have used such ideas to reverse declining fertility.

.. High employment among women and high fertility don’t have to be in conflict, but they will be without such policies