We have been giving continuing coverage to the declining birth rate, including Births down not totally bad news in last month's issue. A new WSJ/NORC poll in March gives some evidence of why the birth rate is declining; there is a significant decline in the share of young adults aged 18-29 who say having children is very important to them. In 1998, 59% said it was very important. It dropped to 43% right before the pandemic and is currently down to only 30% saying it is very important.
There has been a definite shift in attitudes toward parenthood. Many young adults today view having children as a choice rather than a requirement.
There are significant partisan differences. A larger share of Republicans than Democrats say having children is very important to them.
One factor influencing this decline in the importance of having children is that 78% of the young adults surveyed do not feel confident that life for their children's generation will be better than it is for them.
Other factors contributing to the declining birth rate may include the growing use of highly effective contraception, the high cost of raising children, improved occupational opportunities for women, and the high level of student debt by young adults. Also, women today start having children later in their lives. Since they start later, they have less time to have many children before they reach childbearing biological limits.
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