New data show an unmistakable trend: American women are having more kids. The total fertility rate (TFR) is the number of children a woman will bear over her lifetime if current rates persist. Roughly speaking, averaging about 2.1 children or more is necessary for a population to grow (without taking migration into account). This measure is now at its highest level since 1971, when it was 2.27. In every year since 1971 the number has been below 2.10, until now. The final revision for 2006 births shows a TFR of 2.10.
Why is this happening?
One thing that doesn’t explain the trend is immigration. It is true that Latinas have higher fertility rates than the other major race/ethnic groups, and they are more likely to have larger families. But fertility rates have been rising for Whites and Blacks as well.
Could it be more women having more children, because “three is the new two”? That’s part of the story. Third births are at their highest level since 1990, and fourth births are at their highest level since 1980 (as far back as the table goes). But first birth rates – the rate at which women have their first child – also jumped, so that’s not the whole story…