The number of women having children in Mecklenburg County is steadily going down, according to the Mecklenburg County Health Department.
Over the last ten years, the rate has been “downward,” with a high of 78.8 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 in 2008 and a low of 60.3 in 2013.
As of 2015, the latest year for which data is available, the fertility rate clocked in at 62.4 births per 1,000 women in the same age range. That’s down from 74.4 in 2006, the earliest set of data available.
It’s not just Charlotte. According to provisional population data released by the CDC, the nation’s fertility rate has been on a downward trend for years – but in 2016, it hit a historic low.
The number of births landed at an even 62 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, a 1% decrease from 2015.
While there are no clear, definitive answers on why these rates have been decreasing, some experts believe millennials are to blame.
So far, millennials are the least likely to have children in favor of things like their desire to put themselves first and nurture a career, travel the world and, well, commit to children with four legs rather than those with two (seriously – a decline in babies born correlated with an increase in ownership of dogs for women between the ages of 15 and 29).
Let’s not forget that a study found that Charlotte ranks close to the top of cities that are the least child-friendly, either.
That’s not to say that those without children in the 15-34 age group won’t eventually have them.
With fertility treatments allowing the postponement of parenthood, there has been a rise in birthrates in women ages 40 to 44. But it’s not enough to balance the scales and make up for the babies that their younger counterparts aren’t having.
Experts have mixed feelings on the matter.
On the one hand, they’re concerned that if the number of births isn’t within a certain range, the “replacement level” (or the ability to keep a population stable rather than growing or shrinking) can’t be hit and if the number is too low, a stable economy will be hard to come by since replacing today’s older workforce would be impossible.
On the other, some are cautiously optimistic that the choice to stay childless is cyclical and it’s just history repeating itself, citing catch-up periods throughout history after times of economic, political and other forms of hardship.
And in a city like Charlotte, where babies outnumber dogs at breweries on any given Saturday afternoon, you have to believe the catch-up period, if it isn’t happening now, is about to.
Are you a twenty- or thirty-something that’s decided to put off having children or decided against having them altogether? Let’s talk for an upcoming story: firstname.lastname@example.org.