What’s Behind America’s Declining Birth Rate?


We surveyed women across the country to get a better understanding on how they view motherhood and starting a family.

Earlier this year, data from the United States Census Bureau revealed that the American population grew at the slowest rate since the 1930s during the last decade. Researchers from the Brookings Institute also estimate that the U.S. might see as many as 300,000 fewer births this year alone due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a healthcare data management firm that has migrated and archived millions of U.S. patient records, we were curious to find out what’s behind America’s birth rate decline and why women are opting to delay or forgo motherhood. We recently surveyed women without children between the ages of 18-51 to ask them about their feelings on starting a family.


Family Planning

According to respondents, 52% say they plan to have children while 17% say they’re “unsure” about starting a family, and nearly one-third (31%) have no plans at all to have a child. These numbers vary considerably among women who are in a relationship compared to single women. Among women who are either married or in a relationship, 59% say they plan to have a child. Among women who are single, 42% say they will not have a child and 24% say they “aren’t sure.”

Family Planning

There are many reasons why women don’t plan to have children, but finances and careers are at the top, according to respondents. Impact on lifestyle and a lack of freedom were also among the main reasons why women say they don’t want to have children.

Birth Rate Decline Reasons

However, even though 48% of women say they either don’t want children or aren’t sure about having children, 59% of those respondents still say they have felt maternal urges to have children. Nearly half (49%) say their parents or family expect them to have a child, but 45% haven’t told their family that they have no plans to have one.


Financial Reasons

Financial Reasons

Among women who don’t plan to have children or aren’t sure about motherhood, 44% say financial reasons are the biggest barrier to starting a family. This sentiment is true among all women surveyed as 62% say the cost of raising a child is preventing starting a family. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the estimated cost to raise a child in the U.S. is $233,610, which does not factor in the cost of college education.

Motherhood Hesitantcy

Finances are also top of mind among women who do plan to have children. According to respondents, financial stability is the main concern women have when it comes to motherhood. Finances were also the top reason cited for why women who want children are hesitant to have one.


Pandemic: Baby Boom or Baby Bust?

Pandemic Birth Rate

According to respondents, more than half (52%) say the pandemic changed their attitude toward having children and more than one-third (35%) say the pandemic delayed their plans to have children. It’s interesting to note that 43% of respondents have felt an increased desire to have children throughout the pandemic.


Parenting Pressure

Parenting Pressure

Women who were surveyed say that pressure to have a child exists in multiple layers. Everything from social media to parents and family are putting pressure on women to start a family. Overall, 71% say their parents or family members “expect” them to have a child and 76% say social media puts pressure on women to have children.

Along with parents and social media, women also say that seeing their friends have kids triggers “baby fever” or a strong emotional urge to have a child.

Baby Fever

There’s also a flipside for women who see their friends having children. According to respondents, 64% say they know a friend or friends who shouldn’t have children either due to a lack of parental skills, their age or irresponsibility.

Parenting Pressure

The number of children women’s friends are having also seems to be an issue. More than half (52%) admit to privately criticizing a friend for having too many children. However, changes in society have led women to feel that it is more acceptable to have a child without being married, according to respondents.


Motherhood and Mental Health

Motherhood and Mental Health

Along with physical health, mental health also plays a strong role in the decision to have a child. According to respondents, more than half (57%) say that having a child makes people happy.

As the world continues to evolve to the changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be interesting to see how attitudes and data behind America’s declining birth rate evolve as well.


From May 28 to July 6, 2021, we surveyed 1,000 women without children between the ages of  18 and 51 on the topic of motherhood and family planning. The median age was 32. Income: Under $20K: 13%; $20-40K: 23%; $40-60K: 29%; $60-80K: 21%; $80-100K: 10%; Over $100K: 4%.

Employment status: Employed full-time: 82%; part-time: 11%; unemployed due to COVID-19: 2%; unemployed not due to COVID-19: 4%; other: 1%.

For media inquiries, contact media@digitalthirdcoast.net.

08.02.2021 5 min read

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