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Number of births in the United States 1990-2018

While the standard image of the nuclear family with two parents and 2.5 children has persisted in the American imagination, the number of births in the U.S. has steadily been decreasing since 1990, with about 3.79 million babies born in 2018. In 1990, this figure was 4.16 million.

Birth and replacement rates

A country’s birth rate is defined as the number of live births per 1,000 inhabitants, and it is this particularly important number that has been decreasing over the past few decades. The declining birth rate is not solely an American problem, with EU member states showing comparable rates to the U.S.

Additionally, each country has what is called a “replacement rate.” The replacement rate is the rate of fertility needed to keep a population stable when compared with the death rate. In the U.S., the fertility rate needed to keep the population stable is around 2.1 children per woman, but this figure was at 1.77 in 2017.

Falling birth rates

Currently, there is much discussion as to what exactly is causing the birth rate to decrease in the United States. There seem to be several factors in play, including longer life expectancies, financial concerns (such as the economic crisis of 2008), and an increased focus on careers, all of which are causing people to wait longer to start a family. How international governments will handle falling populations remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the declining birth rate is a multifaceted problem without an easy solution.

Number of births in the United States from 1990 to 2018

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Release date

November 2019


United States

Survey time period

1990 to 2018

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