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Baby Bust: US Birth Rates Drop Again

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New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that US birth rates hit a record low in 2017.

According to the data, the fertility rate in 2017 hit a 40-year-low, with just 1.76 children per woman of childbearing age. There were 3,853,472 births recorded in the US in 2017, "down 2 percent from 2016 and the lowest number in 30 years," according to the CDC. 

Colorful carp streamers flutter in the air over the Kawakami Gorge in Saga, Saga prefecture, southwestern Japan, Friday, April 13, 2018. The colorful streamers are hung to mark Children's Day on May 5, wishing children's healthy growth like carp that can swim up a waterfall - Sputnik International
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The statistic marks the second year in a row that the US fertility rate has hit a record low.

"The decline in the rate from 2016 to 2017 was the largest single-year decline since 2010," the CDC stated.

Companies that sell baby products are feeling the heat. Kimberly-Clark, which markets the Huggies diaper brand, has been vocal about the effect of declining birth rates on company earnings. In January, the firm announced that it would cut around 13 percent of its global workforce to balance shareholder value against cost of doing business.

"I'd say, certainly in 2017 we had some factors like the birthrate in the US and Korea being more negative than expected, that you can't encourage moms to use more diapers in a developed market where the babies aren't being born in those markets," remarked company CEO Thomas Falk in January, cited by CNBC.

Procter & Gamble, marketing the Pamper brand, and baby-bottle maker Edgewell Personal Care, have also reported steep decreases in sales.

"Declining birth rates sweeping across America are going to have a profound effect on many businesses — some in the immediate term and others 5 to 10 years out," Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, told CNBC.

"The reason is that declining birth rates hit the obvious group of businesses first: diaper makers, toy makers, kids meals at restaurants, car seat manufacturers and the like," he added.

There are several reasons that women are having less babies, including changing attitudes about motherhood among young women in their childbearing years. Many millennial women are likely postponing marriage and children to focus on a career track. 

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"The big question we're exploring at our generational research center is if this is a temporary generational delay or a new normal," Dorsey told CNBC.

"At this point, our research appears to show this is heavily generational driven by millennials who are now well into their late 30s. We consistently hear millennials tell us that they're delaying having kids until they feel ready —financially and otherwise — yet they also tell us they still intend to have kids," Dorsey offered.

"What will be telling to us is how Generation Z [those between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s] reaches traditional markers of adulthood, such as having children, and if they swing the pendulum back the other way as they emerge. They are now up to age 22. This is a trend business leaders need to watch closely whether it impacts them now or will in the future," he added.

In addition, changes in immigrant population are thought to be another factor in declining US birth rates as some immigrant groups, including Asians, are recorded as having fewer children.

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