Sixty years ago, children accounted for more than one-third — 36% — of the U.S. population. Today, that number is 22% and shrinking faster than anticipated.
The U.S. Census Bureau had not expected the kid population to drop that low until 2030, but the reality hit more than a decade ahead of projection.
Last year, the U.S. birth rate dropped to its lowest number in 32 years. The births of 3,788,235 babies in 2018 is a 2% drop from 2017. That’s the lowest number of babies born in the U.S. since 1986.
The birth rates declined among all racial groups and all women under 35, while rising slightly for women in their late 30s and early 40s.
And it’s a nationwide trend. Since 1990, child population rates have fallen off in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Center.
The biggest drops were in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The share of kids in each of those states decreased from 25% in 1990 to 19% in 2018.
New Jersey experienced the smallest decline. Children accounted for 23% of the Garden State’s population in 1990 and 22% in 2018.
Meanwhile, the overall adult population has continued to climb since 2009.
The decline in births might be attributable to the fact that young American adults in their 20s and 30s, among the hardest hit by the Great Recession of 2007-2009, are still recovering professionally and financially from their rough entry into the workforce, prompting them to postpone starting their families.
Meanwhile, the graying of America continues. By 2030, all Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — will be over the age of age 65, meaning that 1 in every 5 residents will be of retirement age.
Experts had expected the U.S. birth rate to stabilize by now. America’s senior citizens will need more young workers, not fewer, to help bolster economic safety net programs like Social Security, which was designed in 1935 primarily to provide retired workers with a continuing income.
The program currently also serves disabled workers and their dependents as well as survivors of deceased workers.
In 2014, there were 35 workers per every 100 people drawing Social Security benefits. By 2030, the number of workers is projected to drop to 44 for every 100 beneficiaries.
As of June 2018, about 175 million workers paid Social Security taxes while approximately 62 million people received monthly Social Security benefits.