• The U.S. fertility rate has fallen for the fourth year in a row.
• This decrease in babies being born could lead to a "demographic time bomb," or when a country's young population falls behind the population of older people, putting a strain on the country's resources.
• Other countries dealing with demographic time bombs have experienced its devastating effects, and some have even implemented policies to try to reverse them.
People in the United States are having fewer and fewer children, and the impact could be devastating.
The U.S. government announced on Wednesday that the country's fertility rate has fallen for the fourth year in a row — with only 59.1 births for every 1,000 women of childbearing age, according to the New York Times. Overall, the birth rate has fallen by 15% in the U.S., signifying a steady decline since the Great Recession of 2008, an overall record low in decades.
While the overall population in the U.S. has not declined, in part because of immigration rates, this decreasing fertility rate could spell trouble for the country as the "baby boomer" generation grows older and fewer people opt to have children.
The declining birthrate could be another indicator that a "demographic time bomb," a phenomenon that occurs when a country's life expectancy rate increases and overall fertility rate decreases, is impending. This can have a devastating impact on the country's economy, distribution of resources, and overall workforce.
The U.S. has yet to reach a true demographic time bomb, though. But nations including Japan, Russia, and Spain are already grappling with the effects of these generational population gaps — and might serve as a glimpse into the US's future.
A demographic time bomb could lead the U.S. down the same path as some other countries
Nations like Japan and Russia are dealing with their own demographic time bombs, with too few young people entering the workforce to support each country's aging population.
As Japan's population shrinks since fewer children are born each year, the Japanese government is having to spend more money on healthcare and pensions. This could lead to economic stagnation when coupled with a shrinking workforce, according to experts.
In addition to a smaller workforce, some countries' towns are being left essentially abandoned as the number of residents dwindles with no young people to replenish them. In 2017, Spain's death rate outpaced its birth rate more rapidly than the country had seen in its recorded history — with some towns like La Estrella left with only two 80-year-old residents.
These trends have led some countries to change government policies in an effort to reverse the effects of its decreasing fertility rates.
In 2019, for instance, Spain put a policy into effect offering free fertility treatment to same-sex couples and single women. China repealed its decades-long "one child" law to try and reverse its aging population in 2016.
And while the U.S. has yet to resort to government intervention to address its possible demographic time bomb, experts are taking note of the possible impending problem.