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Millennials have officially taken over. The massive age group recently dethroned the Baby Boomers as the largest generation alive.
Though they’ve quickly inundated the population, they’re in no rush to reproduce.
According to a recent report by the Urban Institute, Millennials are reproducing at the slowest pace of any generation in U.S. history. But it’s not that they aren’t interested in having children, they’re just putting it off.
Only six percent of Americans ages 18-40 don’t want to have children. And according to a Gallup poll, those under age 30 want an average of 2.7 kids, which is higher than the national fertility rate of 1.9 children.
So why is this generation waiting longer to have kids? And why is the fertility rate so low? And what does this mean for Millennials’ future? Let’s dig deeper.
One of the most obvious reasons the fertility rate is low among Millennials is that they’re getting married later.
The average age for a first marriage is 29 for men and 27 for women, which is up from 26 for men and 23 for women just a generation ago in 1990.
According to Dr. Jean Twenge, author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – And More Miserable Than Ever,” Millennials not getting hitched has a lot to do with a more progressive society.
“It’s likely rooted in changing roles for women and individualism,” Dr. Twenge said. “Social rules like being married before you have kids just aren’t as important as they used to be.”
Millennials are the most educated generation in American history, yet because many of them were in college during the Great Recession, they worry about their future and they’re saddled with student loans.
The average student loan debt is $40,000 and 43 percent of Millennials delay starting a family because of the amount they owe.
Not only do they worry about being able to afford children, but also having time to raise them. A Wharton Business School study on Millennials found that male graduates expected to work 72 hours a week and felt fatherhood would conflict with their careers.
Postponing having children may affect a couple’s chances of conceiving. While it’s well-known that women’s fertility drops sharply around their mid-30s, fertility in men gradually declines around age 25.
Research shows that men above age 35 are about half as fertile as men under 25, and the chances a couple will take more than 12 months to conceive doubles when the man is older than 35. (Men of any age can check their fertility with SpermCheck, a simple at-home test that gives them results in minutes.)
A low fertility rate can have lasting consequences on society as well.
From an economic standpoint, it can negatively impact Millennials when they reach retirement age. When the largest generation has a low fertility rate, it means there will be a smaller workforce to pay for its benefits during retirement.
According to the Washington Post, in 2010 there were 19 retirement-age people for every 100 working-age people in the U.S. When Millennials retire in 2050, there will be 36 retirement-age people for every 100 workers.
Worries about not having the money to care for children could actually hurt this generation’s ability to produce that larger family they hoped for, and impact how those families live after retirement.