American society may have reached a tipping point of monumental proportions in 2018. For the first time ever, Americans are not making enough babies to replace the current population, News Radio 1200 WOAI reprots.
"The required fertility rate is 2.1 births per woman, that is just to maintain population," Dr. Matthew Retzloff of the Fertility Center of San Antonio said. "Now we have dropped below that level, and really, we are seeing that for the second year in a row."
And Dr. Retzloff says he does not see this trend ever reversing.
The reasons for this are obvious. Rather than being the 'professional baby makers' that they have been, essentially throughout human history, today's women have options which are now equal to men, in the workplace and other pursuits.
Dr. Retzloff says this has led to the average American woman having children substantially later, to first develop a career, and, obviously, when a woman has her first baby later, she will have fewer babies, and may not find it possible to have babies at all.
"More opportunities for women, working and multiple other opportunities, and there has recently been a delay in child bearing as well," he said. "You then see a decline in 'child per woman' as well as a decrease in family size."
In fact, among many Millennial women, with the stigma of the 'Old Maid' now a thing of the past, having no children at all has become a 'status symbol' of wealth and professional success.
The U.S. is not the first of the western democracies to deal with the very real possibility of falling birth rates. Europe has dealt with births below rate of reproduction for a decade, and it is this phenomenon which prompted Germany's leaders to open their borders to refugees in 2015.
The economic implications of this trend are obvious.
This means the U.S. will increasingly be a nation with a growing elderly population, and a shrinking population of young people to support them.
When President Roosevelt started Social Security in 1935, there were then about 12 Americans to pay the taxes that would support every retiree. Even as late as 1975, the U.S. still had more than seven young workers for every Social Security recipient.
But a combination of a lower birth rate and a longer life span, is facing the U.S. on a course for a much smaller ratio of working age people to retirees and, conceivably, a day when the retired population will outnumber those who are working.
Also, economic growth relies largely on the ideas of younger people. From Thomas Edison (who was 31 when he invented the electric light bulb) to Henry Ford (39 when the Ford Motor Company was incorporated) to Steve Jobs (21 when the Apple I computer was created), the innovation which drives a modern economy is generally led by younger people, a population which will soon be in shorter supply due to these changes.