Fertility bottoms out, reflects unemployment

In all the hubbub over the unemployment trend, we mustn’t forget a more basic indicator of the way things are — the fertility rate.

I’m not just saying that because it looks like I was right (more or less) that fertility would rebound in 2011, based on my advanced amateur Google search analysis. (That’s what you get for your tax dollars (thanks, Maryland) — a prediction pretty much as good as some corporate scam.)

Based on the new 2011 fertility report and annual unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can now report that fertility rebounded — with a dramatic drop in the rate of decline, and that fertility changes are pretty closely related to unemployment trends.*

Here’s the trend in change in fertility:

Sure, fertility rates again hit an all-time low, but it’s the direction that counts.

More importantly for the moment, it looks like it is still related to unemployment. Here is the relationship between change in the unemployment rate from 2009 to 2010, and change in the fertility rate the next year, 2010-2011, for each state. The correlation is about -.45, continuing the association reported for early years in the recession (06-09 and 06-10).

So, put it this way: As as been the case throughout the recession, falling fertility is concentrated in states with worsening economic conditions.

* Generalizations(TM) about statistical associations should not be taken as predictions about the future or descriptions of stable directions in underlying trends.


8 thoughts on “Fertility bottoms out, reflects unemployment

  1. So would we be safe in assuming that real fertility has not actually declined over the past few years and instead has just been delayed due to poor economic conditions? Will birth rates rebound to higher-than-expected levels because people have put off their births until the economy improves?


    1. No, not a safe assumption. It might rebound, but for many people the moment is passed – time hurries on, plans change, bodies age.

      Long run effects are tricky. In fact, someday we might give give W. some credit for crashing the economy, lowering fertility rates, and giving the smaller-than-average cohort of 25-year-olds a boost as they look for jobs coming out of the big recession of 2031.


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