United States Fertility Rate Hits New Low

Population control advocates say ‘Hooray,’ but is there reason to celebrate?

A sobering new report finds the U.S. fertility rate has hit a 40-year low. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that there were about 3.85 million births in 2017, which translates into a total fertility rate (TFR – the number of children a woman will have in her lifespan) of about 1.76 births per woman.

That’s way below the fertility rate needed merely to replace the current population, about 2.1 births per woman. It also marks a dramatic drop since 2007, when there were 4.31 million births, and the TFR was 2.08.

Anti-natalist and population control advocates are celebrating the news. One author, writing in Reason magazine, greeted the report with a “Hooray!” “Because time and money are limited, more Americans are exercising their reproductive freedom,” wrote Ronald Bailey, “making the tradeoff between having more children and pursuing the satisfactions of career, travel, and lifestyle. That’s a good thing.”

The Value of Motherhood

In the first place, however, it’s not at all clear that the reduction in the U.S. fertility rate is due to the free choice of women. Since the 1970s, there has been a significant gap between the number of children that women say they would like to have (currently about 2.7), and the number they actually do have. That gap has only increased in recent years.

If liberals are as concerned as they say they are that women have the freedom to pursue their dreams unencumbered, perhaps they should inquire why women are not achieving their self-professed ideal family sizes. I suspect that if they did so, they would find a plethora of uncomfortable answers, including the existence of various “soft” coercive external pressures, starting with a culture of unrealistically high expectations on women to balance work and family, and the ubiquitous propaganda of pro-abortion, feminist, and population control groups. These latter constantly hammer women from the time they are little girls with the message that they have a “duty” to forego having children in order to achieve a particular, narrow version of “success” – i.e. economic success. No wonder then, at the drop in the U.S. fertility rate.

U.S. fertility rates are dropping

The epidemic of women regretting postponing child-bearing until it is too late suggests that women are not convinced by the radical feminist propaganda. Deep down, they understand the truth expressed so eloquently in St. Mother Teresa’s paean to motherhood:

That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike! Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also by thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving, than giving oneself to others. No job, no plans, no possessions, no idea of “freedom” can take the place of love. So, anything that destroys God’s gift of motherhood destroys His most precious gift to women – the ability to love as a woman.

Mother Teresa’s Letter to the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995

Short-Term Thinking

In the second place, it’s hard to wrap one’s head around the kind of shallow, short-term thinking that fails to see how elevating career, travel, and “lifestyle” over the choice to have a family leads to a host of harmful long-term consequences, both for the individual and society.

As one author observed in the New York Times, while some celebrate the low birth rate as an answer to “overpopulation,” what they don’t understand is that “very real problems could develop from lower fertility that many might not see coming, like difficulty meeting Social Security obligations, caring for older people and maintaining economic growth.”

On the whole, pro-choice liberals are far more likely to support vast, government-funded social welfare programs. The irony is that these programs depend entirely on a robust and growing economy, which in turn relies upon a robust and growing population. Without a new generation of taxpayers to pay the taxes, welfare programs are merely a giant Ponzi scheme. The liberal worldview is thus at internal war with itself: supporting economic theories that require a growing population, while supporting an anti-natalist ideology that ensures those children will never be born.

Even worse, pro-choice liberals are simultaneously attacking the single most cost-effective, reliable, and humane “social welfare program” ever devised, the one and only program that can even survive an economic and political implosion: the family. From birth to death, the data is clear: the intact, two-parent nuclear family is the best assurance of success and well-being.

The sad truth is that all those couples who have deliberately chosen career, travel and lifestyle over raising a family will one day grow old; and when they do, there will often be no one to care for them. And without the economic productivity and taxes of their non-existent children, will the state be able to afford to provide the care they need? A loving child, on the other hand, will commit himself or herself to the care of an elderly parent, without demanding any payment in return.

This is also the sad irony of the U.S. government’s long-term and massive expenditure on pro-abortion population control groups like Planned Parenthood. That misuse of our taxpayer dollars has no doubt led us to our current predicament: a country with an imploding birth rate, and thus without a future. President Trump’s recent decision to cut federal funding to organizations that perform abortions is one welcome step towards rectifying this wrong.

U.S. fertility rate

Kitty Marion distributing Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review in 1915

The Irony of “Lifestyle” Worship

There is also a deeper and even more tragic irony in the anti-natalist ideology: namely that in the pursuit of a better “lifestyle,” its advocates are in fact pursuing a way of life that leaves many of their deepest desires – above all for meaning – unfulfilled.

Work is good, but rare are the careers that satisfy the human need to build and leave behind something inherently meaningful. Travel is fun and interesting, but it does not satisfy the profound human need to set down roots. Eating out, going to theatrical performances, having many friends and acquaintances and attending interesting parties are all perfectly worthy goods, but they do not sustain the soul in times of trial and suffering. So what does this have to do with the U.S. fertility rate?

This is the paradox of human existence: that many of the things that seem most difficult turn out in the end to impart the greatest satisfaction, while many of the things that seem most pleasant turn out to leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled. Sin is easy, but for all of its allure, it leads us only to destruction. Virtue is difficult, but in the end leads to literally infinite happiness.

Parenthood is difficult, and demands enormous sacrifices of time, personal aspirations, money, and independence: but what is more nourishing for the soul, and society at large, than a strong family united by close bonds of love? Behind the bleak but impersonal statistics put out by the Centers for Disease Control there are a million tragic stories of men too weak in character to commit to marriage and children, of women pressured to put aside their authentic desires for fashionable and shallow ones, and of couples choosing loneliness in old age over the rich gift of familial love.

happy family

At times, anti-natalists profess to be motivated by altruistic motives: the protection of the planet, the pursuit of “sustainability,” the eradication of poverty, etc. Scratch the surface, however, and you will often find a crass consumerism, which worships pleasure above sacrifice and independence above community.

Speaking of a growing problem of a “blind submission to consumerism,” St. John Paul II observed, “In the first place it represents crass materialism. At the same time, it represents a radical dissatisfaction because one quickly learns that the more one possesses, the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled.”

“As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live,” St. John Paul II also said elsewhere. These latest statistics only give us more reason to fear for the future of our world.



About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing hli@hli.org.


  1. Lynne Falconer on May 29, 2018 at 10:15 AM

    Thank you Fr. Shenan J. Boquet.
    This is an article that should be distributed world wide – to every corner of the earth.
    The issue today is not just the rate of abortion and the reduced rate that women have children, there is also the incredibly sad issue that our government here in the United States is intentionally and literally crippling the next and future generations through programs such as mandatory vaccine that is harming so many children and creating a national and international health crisis of epic proportions.
    When we look at the number of children that are now so regressed developmentally, that is a social security and tax burden that those who are healthy and who will be tax payers will bear for many decades to come. And so in their effort to cover themselves the liberals now promote eugenics and assisted suicide.
    I really wish there was a way to show these people the error of their ways and the price that our children are paying so dearly – our entire society is no longer a civilized society. In so many ways through the genocide of our unborn babies this current era of so-called civilization has descended into such gross barbarism that there is little hope of recovery except through another Biblical type catastrophe.
    The end times described in Revelations is a prophecy of what we as humanity have brought upon ourselves because we lost the ability to just love one another as Jesus taught.
    So in prayer we ask for God’s love to shower over every child born and unborn and for the Love and Wisdom of Jesus to permeate the hearts and minds of every man, woman and child.
    May God’s blessings bestow upon us each the wisdom to recognize the real truth, the love to open our hearts to unconditionally love ourselves and others in the truest sense of the words, and the power to recognize our integral part in building a world that will provide a true future for our children and to take responsibility for our actions, words and thoughts.
    May you be blessed for the work you do, Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

  2. Fr. Joseph LoJacono, STL on May 29, 2018 at 11:37 AM

    Thank you Fr. Boquet. Another issue to keep mind is the increase in rate of infertility among women over the last few decades trying to get pregnant. The causes are not completely understood, but there are suggestions it may be somewhat related to the way the health care industry has been pushing contraceptives, which WHO designates as Group I carcinogen (poison). It may be related to the prevalence of its use is causing pollution in the water system after disposal. Also, Dr. Thomas Hilgers, An Insider’s look at the War on Women, details how many women have contraceptives pushed down their throats for all sorts of medical conditions related to so called reproductive health, when they should be properly treated in other ways. Dr. Hilger’s and others believes this is part of the cause for an increase in infertility rates among women who try achieve pregnancy usually in their 30s after use of using the pill for many years. This poison has effect on their reproductive systems and it is more difficult to get pregnant the later they start. Dr. Hilger’s is offering a pro-life help with NaProTechnology.

    May the Lord bless your work, a priestly brother in the Lord.

  3. Kathleen Goryl on May 29, 2018 at 11:59 AM

    The writer above notes the designation of contraceptives as a Group I carcinogen. The carcinogenic classification of contraceptives is also included on the American Cancer Society’s website (if a person searches long enough to find it). Where was the American healthcare industry in their public outcry against the Department of Health and Human Services contraceptives mandate? Many in our healthcare industry must have known these contraceptive drugs to be potent carcinogens. Yet, why did they not Speak Up?
    Former President Obama’s own DHHS data showed these contraceptives to be unnecessary since the United States was hardly replacing its own population and had been in a perilous situation for years. (Source: USDHHS Center for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, National Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 62 #9, Dec. 30 2013, Births; Final Data for 2012 by Joyce A. Martin MPH; Brady E. Hamilton PhD., Michelle JK Osterman, MHS, Sally Curtin MA & TJ Matthews , MS, Div. of Vital Statistics.)
    Further, support for our shrinking population is provided by World Health Organization (WHO). WHO notes that high income countries are expected to have flat or declining population growth. Declines in population growth in developed countries are being avoided due to immigration. Additional support for the shrinking population trends is provided by Steven Smoot at the World Congress on Family V in 2009 in his talk “Demographic Bomb”. In this talk, he notes that if it were not for immigrants, the US would not be able to replace its current population. (Please also see the data on the economic impact. It is individual consumer spending that drives the economy, for it represents over 70% of the US Gross National Product.) Both WHO and USDHHS data also note the decline in our fertility rate. The latter data for 2012 US DHHS data document the decline in the number of births, general fertility rate, and total fertility rate (TFR). The General Fertility rate declined to 63/1000 women aged 15-44, “a historic low for the U.S.” The report documents that the TFR has declined for each of the last 5 years. “The 2012 US TFR remained below ‘replacement’ – the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself (generally considered to be 2100 births/1000 women.) The TFR has been generally below replacement since 1971.”
    While the “see something say something” rule and the Speak Up rules are known in government and in healthcare, who followed them? No wonder the Bible’s most frequent phrase and sentiment is “Be not afraid”. Courage is required these days if a person is to be a good government worker, an honest healthcare professional with integrity or a Christian–particularly a Catholic (How many Christian and Catholic organizations had no choice but to sue the Obama administration on the HHS contraceptives mandate when their government and the healthcare industry failed them?)
    Kudos to President Trump (the most pro-life President) and the new Republican administration for restoring religious liberty for Christians and Catholics who were disenfranchised regularly by the previous administration.

  4. Peter Badolato on May 29, 2018 at 3:13 PM

    Thanks Fr. Boquet for such an eloquent article. I worked in a retirement community for independent living and assisted living for fifteen years. I befriended some of the greatest people I ever knew. I met survivors of the Nazi death camps, soldiers and sailors who fought in our wars, musicians who played with the big bands, diplomats and spouses of famous people. I even met folks who knew my father and brothers from New York. In short, I learned all about the 2oth century from those who lived it. The saddest thing, however, was talking to those who were abandoned by their children or who had no children at all. They longed for someone to visit them, to bring the grand-kids or great-grand kids by to share their lives and to drive away loneliness. The family needs shoring-up at both ends.

  5. Shannon Mitchell on June 7, 2018 at 1:28 PM

    Wow. I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just summarize the things you got wrong.

    A nation needs a growing population to provide a strong economy and social services? Tell that to Denmark, which has had a low fertility rate for awhile now, and yet has a strong economy and the best social safety net in the world.

    You think Reason magazine is run by liberals? Next thing you’ll be telling us Fox News is secretly run by the Democrats. Just because two groups come to the same conclusion doesn’t make them friends.

    The fact is that there are too many people in the world already. Global warming, plastics choking our ocean..those things are just symptoms. The only real environmental problem is overpopulation. If you divide up Earth’s land area, it works out to about 5 acres per person. That’s it. And that’s not just to live on, that’s to provide EVERYTHING that person needs. Food, water, and housing. And if you dont’ want to live like a 16th peasant, raw materials, power, infrastructure, and somewhere to put your garbage. Oh yeah, and our wildlife would probably like to have a slice of that too.

    And please…all this handwringing about virtue and sin while backing the most sinful President we’ve had since Nixon? Sound’s to me like you’re accepting the offer the devil made to Jesus. Which, incidentally, shoots down your argument about child rearing being associated with virtue. What’s virtuous about bringing a child into a world or a country that seems determined to destroy itself (with your help)? “Here kid, have fun cleaning up the mess. Oh, and dont’ forget to earn yourself a medical degree so you can do all the surgeries and operations I need when I get older, because it’s your job to take care of me. If you can get a job that is, because chances are you won’t.” Yeah, reeeeaallll virtuous of you. You want to be selfless? Adopt. Care for a child who’s already here instead of dragging one into this world.

    OK, be honest. You don’t really care one whit about the life of the fetus. If you did, you’d be all in favor of contraception, which reduces unwanted pregnancies and by extension, abortions. The only thing you’re worried about is losing a valuable deterrent against unauthorized hanky-panky.

  6. Nick on October 21, 2018 at 7:50 PM

    The anti-natalistic community does have quite a few crazed Leftists, but for those more grounded in their views it’s more about preventing suffering because life is suffering for people and reality is a chaotic and careless thing. I myself believe that having children is a mistake because you are forcing them to suffer, though I may perhaps adopt children so I can raise them well and let them be happy even though clearly their biological parents should’ve thought before they had children.

    You can say that humanity is a history of child abuse. People should at the very least think before they have children and also acknowledge that raising a child is extremely difficult and should be because a child should receive a lot of care and respect that throughout human history, they haven’t had. They’ve been beaten, scolded and yelled at because of the unresolved wounds of their parents. There’s a difference between teaching a child how to behave and abusing them. People having kids simply because it’s “what people do” is foolish and a pro-suffering stance.

  7. […] Today, abortion and the abortion mentality are major culprits in the drop of the U.S. birthrate to a level well below replacement. We’re headed towards demographic […]

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