Record low birth rate could mean challenges ahead - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Record low birth rate could mean challenges ahead for U.S. and KY

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- (WDRB) There's a surprising trend in Kentucky and across the U.S. Birth rates have plummeted. In fact, they've hit a record low.

Down the road, it could mean a smaller work force, fewer people to support programs such as social security, and a more racially diverse population.

Shortly after 9:00 this morning, Matt and Kristy Eaton welcomed Abigail into the world. It's baby number three for the Eaton family.

"Growing up, I had a sister, and I loved having a sister. For as much as we fought, it was a lot of fun. Basically, I want them to have the same experience," said Matthew.

"I never wanted children, then along came our first, kind of accidentally, and then I never looked back. I said, 'You know let's have a big family,'" said Kristy.

The Eaton's are bucking a national trend. The U.S. birth rate has hit a record low of just over 63 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. That's nearly half the peak Baby Boom year of 1957. One big reason for the Baby Bust, according to Kentucky's state demographer Michael Price, is the recession.

"The causation between economic stress and fertility is pretty well proven. That at times of economic stress, birth rates drop. Families make decisions not to have kids."

The decline is across the board but is sharpest among Hispanics, though the rate is still higher than other ethnic groups.

And as birth rates are going down, death rates are going up.

"We're not having enough kids, actually, to replace ourselves. So, unless we attract immigrants from abroad, we would be not growing at all," said Price. 

The birth rate here in Louisville has remained fairly steady over the years. But statewide, Kentucky trends even lower than the national birthrate.

That means Kentucky will depend upon migration from outside the state to replace an aging work force.

"If there is demand for people to come, reasons for people to come, jobs, then people will come," said Price. "If the economy doesn't produce enough jobs, the long-term prospects for population growth are more in danger."

The Eatons are doing their part. Matthew and Kristy say they never considered the economy when planning their family.

"Everybody goes, 'I will wait until I can afford it.' Truth is, you'll never be able to afford it. You just have to do it, chuckled Matthew.

If current nationwide trends continue, by the year 2060, whites will make up 43 percent of the population. Hispanics, 31 percent, and African Americans nearly 15-percent.

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