The Other McCain

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Bad News, America: Teen Births Plummet

Posted on | December 22, 2010 | 11 Comments

Teen birth rate hits record low
As the nation continued to struggle in the recession in 2009, the rate at which U.S. women are having babies continued to fall, pushing the teen birth rate to a record low, federal officials reported Tuesday. . . .
The overall drop pushed the fertility rate to about 2.01, a 4 percent drop from 2008. That is the largest decline since 1973 and put the total fertility rate below the level needed to sustain the size of the population for the second year after being above the replacement rate in 2006 and 2007 for the first time in 35 years.

That last part explains why this is bad news: The United States is one of the few industrialized democracies in the world that is near “replacement level” fertility (average 2.1 lifetime births per woman). Fertility in the rest of the developed world is deep into a disastrous demographic implosion — Portugal, Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy and Japan are among the nations with total fertility rates below 1.5. This is a long-term trend that has continued so long that, in most of those nations, it is likely irreversible. (Mark Steyn wrote about the economic and geopolitical consequences of this in his book, America Alone.)

The U.S. total fertility rate fell below “replacement level” for the first time in 1972 and reached an all-time low (1.74 births per woman) in 1976. The rate gradually increased from there but did not again reach replacement level until 2006. This demographic recovery was mainly due to a large influx of Hispanic immigrants with higher birth rates — and, most notably, with higher teen birth rates.

The two phenomena are inseparable. Any population group that demonstrates higher overall fertility will also tend to have higher teen birth rates and, by the obverse principle, policies aimed at reducing teen births will suppress overall fertility. Meanwhile, however, the same idiots who think that the record-low teen birth rate is good news are unable to explain why unmarried births are increasing.

Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation examines this seeming paradox of declining teen births and rising unwed births:

How can this be if teen moms are fewer in number? Because the large majority of single moms are well beyond their high school years. In reality, high-school-age girls are responsible for fewer than 10 percent of births occurring to single mothers, while women between 18 and 29 years of age are responsible for roughly 75 percent of out-of-wedlock births.
Yet most of the talk heard from policymakers regarding this matter centers around the need to throw increasing amounts of money at teen pregnancy prevention programs, mostly those that get birth control into the hands of high school students.

Read the whole thing.


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