Fertility Patterns • Crude birth rate—births per 1,000 total population • General fertility rate—births per 1,000 women 15-44 The crude birth rate in the United States declined very steadily from 55 births per 1,000 in 1820 to 18/19 births per 1,000 during the 1930s. But during the late 1940s it jumped to almost 25 per 1,000, which it would achieve in 1957. By the mid-1970s the crude birth rate was at an all-time historical low of 15 per 1,000. 14.6 in 1975 16.7 in 1990 14.8 in 1996 14.2 in 2007.
What demographic factors caused the baby boom? • More women married than ever before. • More women who married had children. • They had their children earlier in their life cycles. • Some had more children. The women who bore the baby boom were born during the late 1920s and the 1930s. Their husbands averaged 2.5 years older than they, and so were born during approximately the same time period.
1. More women married than ever before. The percentage of women marrying at some time during their lives: 1880s/1890s……….91% 1900s………………92% 1910s………………94% 1920s………………95% 1930s………………96% Women born during the 1930s also married earlier. Over 54% of those born between 1935 and 1939 had married before they were 21. Comparable figures are 51% for those born during the early 1930s, and 44% for those born during the late 1920s.
2. More women who were married had children. For those women born 1880-1910, at least 14% remained childless. 1920s………………9% 1930s………………7%. Norman Ryder concluded that the baby boom could be explained in large part by the sharp decline in the numbers of married women who had no children or only one child. Because some women never marry and some cannot have children, he argued that the 1931-35 cohort of women had very close to the maximum number of first, second, and third children that they could possibly have had.
3. They had their children earlier. Before they were 22, the 1935-39 cohort had produced 692 children per 1,000 women. 1930-34 cohort………………610 children per 1,000 women. 1925-29 cohort………………467 children per 1,000 women. 1920-24 cohort………………397 children per 1,000 women. Rates were lower still for the cohort born during the 1910s. Part of the baby boom was due to a timing overlap because younger women were having their babies before the older women were finished with their child-bearing. Such an overlap could produce a bulge in births even if the completed family size of the younger generation was no greater than that of the older.
Theories of the Birth Rate 1. Richard Easterlin asserts that members of small generations face less competition in the labor market due to limited labor supply. Their incomes are higher than they aspired to. Their response is to have more children. Members of a large generation face much competition in the labor market and their incomes are lower than they aspired to have. Their response is to have fewer children. Aspirations are tied to their parent’s income.
2. Butz and Ward argue that higher incomes of husbands result in more births (just like Easterlin), but higher incomes of wives discourage births because they raise the opportunity cost of childbearing. (The labor force participation rates of women, especially of married women, and especially married white women, increased dramatically during the last 40 years of the 20th century.) The 1950s was an affluent time and female labor force participation rates were low. Thus, two factors worked in favor of more births: a. higher incomes of husbands and b. lower labor force participation rates of their wives. Rising real wages during the 1960s and 1970s drew more women into the labor force, and the cost of having children increased. Consequently, the birth rate fell.
Some argue that the Easterlin hypothesis is limited because a. it predicts a pattern of behavior that does not exist around the world, and b. it “works” for only one complete cycle. Thus, most economists would likely favor the Butz and Ward theory.