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American fertility rate plummets to below-replacement level

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Some states, however, still have high birth rates.

A 40-year-old married woman explained to NBC News why she decided not to have children. Spontaneity is important, she said, to her career as a freelance writer.

“I love work,” she said. “I’m kind of like a workaholic in terms of, I just really throw myself into writing.”

Moments later, she shunned the idea of having children around. “Babies are a lot of work,” she claimed, “and I wasn’t willing to take on half that work.”

It’s a decision, NBC News said, that more and more women are making.

“A new report shows that the U.S. birthrate is the lowest in 30 years,” the network said.

The problem? People like this freelance writer might end up working longer into their “retirement” years because there are fewer and fewer members of the younger generation who can support them through things like their contributions to Social Security.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this month showing that Americans are not having enough babies to meet the critical fertility rate of 2,100 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. The current rate is only 1,765.5 per 1,000.

That’s 16 percent below the number needed to keep the population stable.

“The total fertility rate has been declining steadily for seven years, but the numbers for 2017 represent the biggest drop in recent history,” NBC News said. “The rate for 2016 was 1,820.5; for 2015, 1,843.5; and for 2014, 1,862.5.”

Experts say the decline isn’t due to a single cause, but rather a combination of several factors, including changing economics, delays in childbirth by women pursuing jobs and education, the greater availability of contraception, and a decline in teen pregnancies.

The trend seen in the United States is also seen in much of the developed world, including Western Europe, said Dr. John Rowe, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. One important factor driving this is the changing roles of women in society, Rowe said.

“In general women are getting married later in life,” he explained. “They are leaving the home and launching their families later.”

The CDC report breaks down total fertility rates by state. They range from a high of 2,227 in South Dakota to a low of 1,421 in Washington, D.C.

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