Is the Drop in Fertility Due to the Great Recession or a Permanent Change?



In the United States, the current birth rate has declined since the Great Recession.  The question is whether this decline is a temporary response to the economic downturn or a drift to the lower levels seen in many other large developed countries.  This paper identifies factors from the literature – both cyclical and structural – that affect the fertility rate and estimates the magnitude of these effects based on the variation across states.  The cyclical analysis shows that while the total fertility rate generally appears to be pro-cyclical, it has not rebounded with the recovery from the Great Recession.  As a result, the analysis decomposes the structural factors that affect fertility – race/ethnicity, education, religion, the opportunity cost for women, and the explicit costs of raising a child.  The results show that an increase in the number of women with a college education, an increase in the ratio of child care costs to income, and an increase in the female-male wage ratio can explain more than half of the decline in the total fertility rate from the period of 2001-2003 to the period of 2014-2016.

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