Millennials, Aging Population Contribute to Declining Birth Rates in Venango County

| February 6, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – Millennials may be to blame for the decline in the birth rate in Venango County.

Ironically, millennials – individuals born from 1981 to 1996 (established by Pew Research Center – who were once part of the largest post-baby boomer era birth increase, may be getting the “credit” for the continuing drop in the U.S. birth rate, according to a published article in says millennials have been blamed for everything from the decline in soap bars, face-to-face interactions, the sport of running, golf, homeownership, diamonds, department stores, relationships, marriage, and much more. Now, it’s the decline in the birth rate.

It is suggested that the decline is possibly the shift in the changing social structure from a traditional approach to an unconventional path brought forth by the millennials.

According to the most recent data available from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the general fertility rate (GFR), which is the total number of live births per 1,000 women of reproductive age (ages 15 to 49 years) in a population per year, for the years of 2012 through 2016 in Venango County was 64.3 per 1,000, making it one of the few counties in our area with a rate higher than Pennsylvania’s state rate, which of 58.5 per 1,000.

Looking at other rates in our region, many local counties fall below the state rate, including Forest County at 51.9 per 1,000, Clarion County at 49.9 per 1,000, and Butler County at 54.6 per 1,000. Mercer County nearly matches the state rate at 58.9 per 1,000, while Crawford County and Warren County are among the few counties with a higher rate, at 60.9 per 1,000 and 63.6 per 1,000 respectively.

Although a change in the way society views marriage and children could be the cause for the decline in the birth rate in Clarion County, there are other components that should be taken into consideration.

According to Clarion County Register and Recorder Greg Mortimer, the decline in the birth rate in our area could be attributed to changing county demographics which includes an aging population and the exodus of younger residents from the area.

“Because we have more of an aging population and younger people moving out of the area more, marriage licenses are down, and usually that’s the younger people, not always, but a great majority of the time. Birth rates could be a part of that, too,” explained Mortimer.

While these rates may not mean much on their own, concerns stem from a decline in birth rates based on a slightly different metric, the provisional total fertility rate (TFR), which is an estimate of the total number of births a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have in their lifetimes, based on the specific birth rates in a given year.

Nevertheless, Venango County has not seen the same kind of decrease as Clarion County.

“We actually did about 16 more marriage licenses in 2018 than in 2017,” said Venango County Register and Recorder Sue Hannon.

Based on data from the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program, in 2017 the TFR in the state of Pennsylvania was 1,693.5 per 1,000 women, which is the 12th lowest birth rate in the country. In comparison, the state with the highest birth rate was South Dakota at a rate of 2,227.5 per 1,000 women, as indicated by the National Center for Health Statistics,

According to the report, the overall TFR for 2017 in the United States was 1,765.5 per 1,000 women, while the “replacement rate,” or what’s considered the rate needed for the population to replace itself, is 2,100 births per 1,000 women.

2017’s TFR decreased 3% from the rate in 2016, which was 1,820.5 per 1,000 women, and was the lowest total fertility rate since 1978. According to the report, 3,853,472 babies were born in the U.S. in 2017, which is also the lowest number of births in a year in three decades.

Another theory for the decline is the economic factor.

The cost of raising a family has soared. With individuals saddled with credit card debt, college loans, and the uncertainty of job security, housing, and medical insurance, many are postponing having children. Then, once couples choose to have children, there are new considerations such as child care, clothing, schooling, healthy food, and medical expenses, just to name a few.

Social factors is another theory for the decline. Changing attitudes about parenthood among the millennial generation and the increased use of long-acting birth control methods, such as IUDs attribute to the decline in the birth rate.

While there are always shifts and ebbs in fertility rates from year to year, a report released last year by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College contends that the decline in fertility we’ve seen in the last decade may be permanent. It contends that the current decline is related to structural factors, such as education, religion, and the opportunity cost for women as measured by the ratio of female-to-male wages, rather than economics, making it less likely to rebound to previous levels.

Whatever the reason may be, the trend of declining fertility rates does not appear to be changing anytime soon, which may lead to problems in the future. According to The Hill, the continuing decline in fertility rate in addition to increasing life expectancy could cause problems for programs like Social Security and Medicare in the future.

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