We’re having fewer babies and employers, schools will feel it

There is a dearth of births in the United States and if the trend continues it could further aggravate existing problems employers are having finding workers.

Last year the nation’s birthrate hit a record low, falling to 62 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Last year 3.9 million babies were born in this nation of about 325 million people.

The downward trend since 2007 - when 4.3 million babies were born - was sparked by the Great Recession. The drop in birth rate came along with high unemployment and economic pain, a trend that has repeated itself over history.

But what has caught demographers’ attention is that the birthrate has not rebounded, even as the economy has recovered since the recession ended in June 2009.

In fact, an estimated 4.1 million fewer babies were born between 2007 and 2016 than would have been anticipated given pre-recession fertility rates, said Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

“The only thing that is comparable to this is during the Great Depression,” said Johnson, who authored an analysis of the new data. “Whether it’s temporary or permanent I don’t know, but either way it has implications for the American economy.”

The good news in the data is birthrates for women in their teens “has dropped quite dramatically,” he said. “But the fact that the number of births to women in their 20s, particularly in their younger 20s, declined raises questions.”

He and other experts say that women reaching child-bearing age are either delaying childbirth or deciding to not have kids because of a combination of factors. These women grew up watching their families or neighbors struggle in the recession, perhaps losing jobs and homes, leaving them feeling unsettled in the economic recovery that has left many people behind in parts of the country.

RELATED: Unemployment numbers improve, but wages are falling, leading to declines in income

And many of young women are saddled with huge college debt or not able to find good-paying jobs.

“They’re very nervous about their ability to become financially secure,” said Corey Seemiller, assistant professor of organizational leadership at Wright State University.

Seemiller said Generation Z, the oldest of whom are turning 22 this year, may be more likely to hold off on having children until they pay off students loans and have jobs they are comfortable in.

Millennials may choose to not have children out of concern about over-population or may delay childbirth out of belief they can offer a better future to their children if they wait to be more financially secure, said Marc Clauson, professor of history and law at Cedarville University.

RELATED: Ohio jobless rate ticks down

The birthrate declined across all ethnic groups, with Hispanic women aged 20-24 having 38 percent fewer babies between 2007 and 2015, the last year for which ethnic and racial data was available, Johnson said. For that age group, Asian women had 33 percent fewer babies, black births dropped 26 percent and white births declined 24 percent, he said.

That occurred as the actual number of women of childbearing age has gone up since 2007.

Johnson said a decline in births hits first in the baby-supply economy, the slew of food, diapers, toys and any number of consumer items people buy once they have kids. It will show up in elementary classrooms, a replay of the shrinking class sizes that occurred as Baby Boomers - the last of whom were born in 1964 - finished their educations, Clauson said.

He said it will then show up in colleges, already struggling to attract students, which will find the competition for fewer students is even more fierce.

As these babies of the Great Recession aftermath reach adulthood there will be fewer people buying houses and cars, both big engines of the economy. There will also be fewer people to pay taxes, contribute to Social Security and Medicare and to fill job slots.

That workforce problem, said Clauson, could exacerbate the debate over immigration. He said European countries have long had birth rates of half or less than the U.S., a trend that followed those nation’s increasing economic health.

RELATED: Study shows immigrants add millions to local economy

“One reason Europeans have been very keen on immigration is they don’t have the number of people they need in the workforce to employ in various activities, so they have to fill their population up from outside,” Clauson said.

That has created a backlash from those who want to keep immigrants out, he said.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump ran on a platform of tightening the borders with a southern wall and deporting undocumented immigrants. Already Western farmers are complaining that they can’t find people willing to work their fields, Clauson said.

RELATED: Sheriff says Dayton calls itself a ‘sanctuary city,’ the city says it does not

In Ohio, businesses are also complaining that they can’t find people with the right skills to fill jobs.

“The biggest barrier that we are hearing about is failure of potential employees to pass a drug test,” said Nichol Smith, assistant director of the Clark County Department of Job and Family Services.

If the birth rate decline continues she said it will mean her department will need to do more of what they are already doing, including engaging with people at a younger age, focusing on adaptive training for people who have lost long-time jobs and doing more on-the-job training to make employees more likely to be successful.

“I think you try to develop programs that respond to the emerging and in-demand industries,” Smith said.

Dave Lamb, spokesman for Community Mercy Health Partners, said births at Springfield Regional Medical Center have fluctuated but were down in 2016, when 1,165 babies were born there, compared to the 1,282 born in 2010.

“There’s been the occasional uptick or downturn in the number of births (but) we’ve held fairly steady overall despite decreased area population,” Lamb said.

Officials at Kettering and Hamilton city schools also said it is too soon to see an impact from the birth rate decline, but Hamilton Supt. Tony Orr said a recent University of Cincinnati demographic study done for the district showed it is coming.

“We are expecting a decline over the next several years in kindergarten enrollment,” Orr said. “The direct correlation is between birth rate and enrollment.”

RELATED: Fewer babies being born; 5 reasons it matters to you

If enrollment declines in a particular building or incoming class, Kettering typically adjust teaching assignments. But if the birth rate decline leads to an overall reduction in student population, officials would look at cutting positions by attrition, said Dan VonHandorf, director of student services at Kettering City Schools.

“We don’t want classes of 35 and we also don’t want classes of 15 or 12,” VonHandorf said. “So you have to work every year and be careful with your numbers to make sure we are using taxpayer dollars wisely and also having a manageable number of kids for our teachers.”

RELATED: Pregnant inmates have local jails scrambling to provide care

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Attorney in Carlisle buried baby case want experts’ names, emails
Attorney in Carlisle buried baby case want experts’ names, emails

The defense attorney for a Carlisle teen charged with aggravated murder in the death of her infant is requesting the names of experts the prosecution has consulted in the case. Brooke Skylar Richardson, 18, is charged with aggravated murder and other felonies for allegedly purposely killing the baby after its birth on May 6 or 7, then burning and burying...
George Lang’s Ohio statehouse appointment: What’s really going on?
George Lang’s Ohio statehouse appointment: What’s really going on?

Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., received unanimous support from the Ohio House members that voted to seat him as the 52nd Ohio House District representative, succeeding former lawmaker Margy Conditt. Conditt resigned on Sept. 8 in order to spend more time with family. She left just six months after being elected to a third term in the Ohio...
These local artists combined their Etsy stores into this Kettering shop
These local artists combined their Etsy stores into this Kettering shop

When Dayton artist Charity Yingling was 12, she turned the family shed into a small gift shop. She had lots of seashells from her family vacations that she and her friends used to create jewelry, wreaths, and other beach-inspired items. She always had that entrepreneurial spirit.  Now she and business partner Caleb Thomas have their own art store...
The search is on -- downtown Dayton looking for the ‘perfect tree’
The search is on -- downtown Dayton looking for the ‘perfect tree’

The Dayton Holiday Festival committee is searching for a tree that will be the centerpiece of Courthouse Square this holiday season. The selected tree will be decorated with more than 50,000 lights and be unveiled at the Grande Illumination ceremony on Friday, Nov. 24. The ideal tree is approximately 45 to 60 feet tall and 25 feet wide. ...
NEW DETAILS: This hardworking couple are getting ready to open their new restaurant 
NEW DETAILS: This hardworking couple are getting ready to open their new restaurant 

The couple behind a locally-owned restaurant is putting the finishing touch on a leap of faith. If all goes as planned, Maria and Eric Walusis will officially open Watermark at 20 S. First St. in downtown Miamisburg on Monday, Oct. 2. The pair introduced the new restaurant to friends, family and reporters this weekend...
More Stories