Fertility rates

The U.S. Baby Bust Continues

The total fertility rate falls to its lowest level ever.


The number of babies American women are having continues to fall, according to the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). "The general fertility rate was 58.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down 2 percent from 2018 to reach another record low for the United States," according to provisional NCHS birth data for 2019. "The total fertility rate (TFR) was 1,705.0 births per 1,000 women [1.705 births per woman] in 2019, down 1 percent from 2018 to reach another record low for the nation."

The total number of births for the United States in 2019 was 3,745,540, down 1 percent from 3,791,712 in 2018. The report notes that this is the fifth year that the number of births has declined after an increase in 2014, and the lowest number of births since 1986.

Last year, the NCHS reported that U.S. TFR had fallen to 1.73 births per woman which beat out the previous U.S. fertility nadir of 1.74 births per woman back in 1976. This number of births per woman remains below replacement, that is, the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself (2.1 births per woman). The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement since 2007.

In addition, the NCHS reports that births to teenage females between the ages of 15 and 19 also reached a record low of 16.6 births per 1,000 women. At the height of the baby boom in the 1950s, births to teen mothers peaked at 96.3 per 1,000 women and then began falling. In the early 1990s, teen births surged briefly to 61.8 per 1,000 women, but have since plummeted to around one-quarter of that number.

The U.S. TFR is now similar to that of many other countries, including those that make up the European Union (1.543), Australia (1.74), New Zealand (1.71), Japan (1.42), South Korea (0.977), Brazil (1.73), and China (1.69). This mirrors the decadeslong global trend of women choosing to bear ever fewer children over the course of their lifetimes. Global total fertility stood at more than five children per woman in 1964 and is well on its way toward below replacement levels, having now dropped to 2.415 children per woman as of 2018.