For years, there has been a major controversy about illegal immigration and the deportation of illegal aliens. Two sides exist; deport them all or let them stay and be legalized.
The subject of legal immigration to the U.S. has received much less attention. The positions taken towards legal immigration have been to 1) eliminate all legal immigration; 2) keep the legal immigration in place as it is; 3) keep legal immigration, but reduce the total numbers allowed and restrict factors like chain migration which add to the numbers of incoming people.
The question of whether the U.S. needs immigration remains to be answered.
When looking at immigration needs, the very first factor to be considered is the fertility rates of the population for the specific country.
The “Fertility Rate”, or “Replacement Rate” is the rate of child births per woman within a specific country. Fertility rates determine whether the population of a country is stable, is growing, or in decline.
For a stable population in a country, the fertility rates of a country must average 2.1 births per woman. Anything above 2.1 means that the population is increasing, and under 2.1, population is decreasing.
Fertility rates vary per country. For example:
- The Niger Fertility Rate is 6.69 births per woman.
- Egypt is 3.47 births per woman.
- Mexico is 2.24 births per woman.
- France is 2.07 births per woman.
- Russia is 1.67 births per woman.
- Germany is 1.45 births per woman.
Third world countries tend to have very high fertility rates. As the country progresses into “second world” and then “first world” status, fertility rates decline.
“Socio-economic” factors determine fertility rates. The worse the economic conditions, the more likely that a country will have higher fertility rates. High mortality rates among younger people will drive the need for greater births.
Religious beliefs will also drive higher fertility rates. For example, the Catholic religion has always promoted more children per family, so highly catholic countries in lesser developed nations will equal more births.
Lower fertility rates are certainly driven by socio economic factors as well. As countries become “wealthier” and families earn more, the demand for children decreases.
The role of women in the society plays the key role in this scenario. Women begin to join the work force, become better educated, and then delay getting married and forming families. Many do not even want to get married and have families. All of this serves to drive down fertility rates.
Eventually, the lowering of fertility rates will give rise to greater immigration to offset the declining population as seen in European countries like Germany.
U.S Fertility Rates
The U.S. is not immune to declining fertility rates. U.S. rates have been in decline for many years.
During the “Post War Baby Boom”, U.S. fertility rates were greater than 3.5 births per woman. By the time of the 1970’s “energy crisis”, birth rates had fallen to under 2.0 per woman. By the late 1980’s, rates had recovered to just over 2.0 where it hovered to 2007, when it was at 2.1 births per woman, just enough to keep a stable population.
Since 2007, there has been a steady decline in the fertility rates of the U.S. In 2014, the rate had fallen to 1.84 births per woman. Since 2014, the rates have continued to fall.
Factors Affecting US Fertility Rate Decline
There are several key factors affecting US fertility rates decline.
- By looking at the chart above, fertility rate decreases may be a result of economic conditions in the U.S. As the country experiences recessions, fertility rates decline. Once the economy begins to recover, rates tend to increase again.This may be the result of young people delaying marriage or having families while in an economic recession. As the economy begins to recover under President Trump, if rates increase, then it may be indicative of financial conditions being a key risk indicator for declining populations.
- Interestingly, since 2007, there has been a change in birth demographics among U.S. ethnic groups. Hispanic families have seen a sharp reduction in births leading to lower fertility rates. The reason is unclear at this point.
- Societal changes have certainly played a significant role in fertility rates. The rate of women entering college, going into the work force, and delaying marriage has caused birth rates to drop.Women earning more income has definitely played a large part in decisions to have families. A greater percentage of women that ever before now earn more than their husbands, which makes the decision to stop working and begin to start a family much more difficult. And add to this that two income families are needed just to survive in the new economic world, fertility rates would necessarily suffer.
For the U.S., societal changes are influencing the Fertility Rates or women in the U.S. Currently, the rate of 1.84 births per woman average indicates that U.S. born population is decreasing and will continue to decrease in the near future years.
As the U.S. birth population decreases further, it will begin to mirror the rates of European countries. This will have significant impact upon future economic conditions in the U.S. The question of how to offset these declines becomes paramount to the future of the U.S.
In Part 2, we shall look deeper into the problem of population decline and how to counter the effects.