New reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that birth rates dropped another 3% in 2010, making three consecutive years of dropping numbers. Experts are debating whether it’s the economy or better birth control that’s responsible for the dwindling numbers, but however you want to explain it, the numbers indicate to us that women are smarting up about their family planning. Which doesn’t surprise me, but given that just a few days ago, MSNBC proclaimed women ignorant about the details of their own fertility, I thought it might be worth pointing out.
According to the CDC report, released yesterday, birth rates dropped for every racial and ethnic group, and almost every age bracket. The most notable drops were in teens (for whom it declined 9%) and women aged 20-24 (for whom it dropped 6%). In all, rates are the lowest that we’ve ever seen since the CDC began keeping track in the 1940s (when just four years ago, in 2007, birth rates hit their record high).
Many say that our down economy has caused women to put family planning on pause due to financial constraints, but others chalk it up to education, better access to contraceptives and less sex, especially amongst teens. But either way, we think that ultimately, the change is a good thing: It means that women are taking better control over their decision to have kids (and, with Michelle Duggar making up for the rest of us, we’re not too worried about the American population dwindling).
The numbers are strong counter-evidence to the media-hyped stereotype of women forgetting how their biological clocks work until—oops!—they’ve forgotten to have kids until it’s too late. Elizabeth has already voiced many of my thoughts on that in far better words than I can here, but suffice it to say: We’re not forgetting that fertility wanes. We’re not even making the decision to have kids out of denial or default. We’re adjusting to the world around us, where all signs indicate we’ll be working long hours and juggling jobs just to take care of ourselves, and not all of us can imagine how we’ll manage to take on motherhood or the cost of a baby, too.
And, while there’s progress to be made in women’s understanding of safe sex, we also think it’s a good sign that, now that women (and men) are taking the decision to become parents more seriously, they’re better-equipped than ever to make sure that what they want (and don’t want) can become a reality.