Divorce, Families & Dollars

Aug 8, 2012 by

People in the United States know that divorce and children can both be expensive propositions. And now that the current economic downturn appears to be a lasting recession, people don’t seem to have much money to spend on either. The trend for people to hold off getting divorced during this recession was already evident. Now, recent numbers released by the National Center for Health Statistics show that the U.S. birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since records have been kept.

Today, the number of births in the US is just 13.5 births for every 1,000 people. In contrast, back in 1820 the birth rate was 55.2 per 1,000 people, which was the first year statistics were analyzed in this country. To be fair though, it is true that births in the U.S. have been declining since 2007 when the birth rate was 14.3 per 1000 people. The year 2007 yielded record birth rates for the U.S., with more children born in 2007 than any other year, but the births tapered off quickly as soon as the recession began.

Family priorities have shifted as jobs have been lost, incomes have declined, and other negative economic factors have resulted in fewer children being born. Despite the fact that the overall US population grew in 2009, births still decreased by 2.9%. The 13.5 births per 1000 figure for 2009 is lower than during the Great Depression in 1936 when the U.S. birth rate fell to just 18.4 per 1000. In comparison, the highest birth rates in the U.S. occurred in 1990 when 16.7 births per 1000 people were recorded.

At the same time, the U.S. divorce rate has been declining slightly each year since 2007 as well. Although there are many contributing factors, the correlation between a recession and lower divorce and birth rates is fairly clear. People are cautious about making long-term, financial commitments when finances are uncertain. The economic downturn has made it too expensive for people to split up, and too costly to increase the size of a family as well. The situation resembles Japan in 1991, when that country experienced a huge recession along with a simultaneous drop in birth rate.

Some people have speculated that the divorce rate is falling because it is just too expensive to get married right now. Many couples simply choose to live together with or without kids, but they don’t get married and therefore they don’t get divorced either. People who are unsure of their financial future will postpone having children too. The recession is putting a damper on more than just the price of stocks these days, and we could see even lower birth and divorce rates yet before things turn around.


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