This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Birth Rate is Up in Switzerland; Down in the U.S.

It's not every day that the news from Switzerland is that the birth rate is going up. But, thanks to my son, John Weeks, for linking me to a story from there showing that there were more births in Switzerland last year than in any year since 1972!
The FSO said the increase was due to the growing number of babies born to foreign parents. However, it said it would be wrong to speak of a baby boom. Rather it was connected to the increase in the number of women of childbearing age in the country. The average number of children per woman was unchanged at 1.5 while the average age for giving birth for the first time was slightly higher than in 2015, at 30.8 years.
In fact, the total fertility rate in Switzerland has hovered right around 1.5 children per woman since the mid-1970s, according to UN data, so this is interesting news, but not too breathtaking.

Meanwhile, back here in the U.S., Justin Stoler sent me a link to a Washington Post story decrying the decline in the number of births in the U.S. 
According to provisional 2016 population data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, the number of births fell 1 percent from a year earlier, bringing the general fertility rate to 62.0 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. The trend is being driven by a decline in birthrates for teens and 20-somethings. The birthrate for women in their 30s and 40s increased — but not enough to make up for the lower numbers in their younger peers.
Now, the headline for this story indicates that "some demographers are freaking out." The reporter interviews only two demographers, however, and neither is freaking out. Donna M. Strobino, a professor of population, family and reproductive health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health notes that the drop in births to younger women is a good thing, not a bad thing, as I have noted before.

The other person quoted in the story is William Frey from the Brookings Institution:
William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, points out that despite the recent decline, the U.S. fertility rate still remains relatively high compared to many other developed countries like Germany and Italy. The United States also still has more births than deaths. And we still have a growing labor force. All these things mean, he said, “I don’t think that’s cause for alarm.” 
Frey attributed the decline in birthrates to a women's “lifestyle” choice as well as the fact the economy has been in a funk. Times of economic downturn or uncertainty tend to cause a drop in birthrates, but when things turn around they tend to bounce back in a kind of catch-up period. 
“Every year I say when the economy is getting better then we’ll start having more children,” he said, “and I'm still expecting that to happen.”
So, the bottom line is that Switzerland's birth rate remains well below replacement level despite this recent rise, and the American birth rate remains just slightly below replacement level despite this recent drop. Everybody take a deep breath...

1 comment:

  1. Remember people who predicted that the 1.7 million new immigrants from Africa and the Middle East would solve the demographic problems in Germany? Early indications are that no, they will be a net drain on the economy over the long term.