In 2015, the United States hit a new low fertility rate of 12.4 births per 1,000 people.2 This is down from 24 per 1000 in 1960.2 We are having half as many babies and it’s going to have a big impact on Americans.
Why this is happening is as complicated as each individual family situation, but one study in the late 1990s concluded that there is a certain population threshold that, when reached, causes individual quality of life to fall.3
There are several metrics that contradict this hypothesis. Americans are showing increasing satisfaction with their lives when asked about their income, jobs, housing, education, and environment.4
There is one major measurement that is falling significantly: work-life balance.4 Maybe we are just all working too hard to take the time to raise a family.
The effects of a declining population are more predictable than its reasons. Many economists predict lower productivity and standards of living as populations decline. We can look to Russia and Japan for examples of what happens. Productivity and GDP per capita in these countries continue to increase even as their populations fall. The continued gains without population growth have been attributed to technology.3
The real threat is the inevitable side effect of a lower birth rate and longer life span: an aging workforce. The median age in the United States in 1960 was 28.1 and by 2060 it is projected to be 42.2
The shifting age in the U.S. is going to lead to some interesting policy decisions in the future. With fewer young workers to fund Social Security, how will we meet the obligation? The U.S. will have to increase revenue or decrease benefits. (There are a number of unpopular ways it can be done: raise taxes, increase retirement age, etc.)
It is more important than ever to ensure that you are doing everything you can to prepare for retirement.
Now is as good of a time as any to talk to our wealth advisors about how you can maximize your retirement savings. No one can predict the future (especially when it comes to congressional action) so all you can do is prepare for it.
(1) Graphical data provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.
(2) The World Bank. (2017, September 14). Birth rate, crude per 1,000 people. Retrieved from The World Bank: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.CBRT.IN?locations=US.
(3) Singha, K., & Jaman, S. (2013). Does population growth affect economic development: A study in India. Journal of International Economics, 4(2), 41-51. Retrieved from
(4) Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2017, September 14). Better Life Index: United States. Retrieved from Better Life Index: http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/united-states/.