The U.S. Census Bureau recently made available the fertility data from the 2014 Current Population Survey, and Gretchen Livingston at Pew Research has undertaken a very thorough analysis of trends over time. The bottom line is that while period fertility rates in the U.S. have dropped a bit especially in reaction to the Great Recession, there is evidence that women who might not previously had a child are now having a child (i.e., childlessness is going down, not up), whereas larger families (4+ children) are rapidly leaving the scene. Thus, the long-term trend (the "quantum" effect) is essentially stable, even if the short-term trend (the "tempo" effect) has been slightly downward. And the trendsetters are women who have in the past led the decline in fertility.
Among women in the United States, postgraduate education and motherhood are increasingly going hand-in-hand. The share of highly educated women who are remaining childless into their mid-40s has fallen significantly over the past two decades.These are generally beneficial trends for the economy because a society that is just replacing itself--and with children in families with sufficient resources--is likely to to better off economically in the long run. This is generally where Scandinavian countries have been, in contrast to much of the rest of Europe, where fertility is well below replacement level, regularly prompting financial writers to worry about the economic impact of an aging population, especially in an environment where income from investments may not match the long-term pension needs.
Today, about one-in-five women ages 40 to 44 with a master’s degree or higher (22%) have no children – down from 30% in 1994, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data. The decline is particularly dramatic among women with an M.D. or Ph.D. – fully 35% were childless in 1994, while today the share stands at 20%. Not only are highly educated women more likely to have children these days, they are also having bigger families than in the past. Among women with at least a master’s degree, six-in-ten have had two or more children, up from 51% in 1994. The share with two children has risen 4 percentage points, while the share with three or more has risen 6 percentage points.
Don’t you think that a drop in Germany’s population from over 80 million people today to 65 million in the next 30 years will matter next year? Of course it will, and the ageing process largely explains the very modest growth in domestic German demand at present, even if many prefer to blame modest consumer demand in Germany on the nasty experience the country went through in the 1920s.This is just a reminder that demography underlies almost everything going on in the world.