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Lower Birth Rate Spurs Questions About the Future [AUDIO]

The United States birth rate is at its lowest level on record, according to the latest numbers, and the older baby boomers are hitting retirement age. That combination has spurred some questions from columnists and analysts about the future of America. Will there be enough people to take care of the elderly? Can fertility make a turnaround?

Baby boy
Flickr User Godverbs

In 2011, the U.S. fertility rate dipped to 1.9 percent, meaning women were bearing less than two children in their lifetime. The ideal level, or “replacement level” to keep the population stable, is 2.1 percent. The number of births hit a record low last year, which saw the nation’s fourth straight year of declines.

Dr. James Hughes, Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, said the struggling economy is a prime reason for the drop. Many couples, during a recession, can decide not to have children and wait until they feel more secure.

“I guess you could call it a cyclical component of fertility change,” Hughes said.

In turn, if the economy can continue its slow recovery and rebound to the best of its ability, Hughes said that could mean a change for the better in the nation’s fertility rate.

Still, Hughes said there is no reason for people to sound the alarm over whether today’s low numbers could mean less help for the older generation in the future.

“Countering the birth rate will be immigration abroad,” said Hughes about the U.S. and New Jersey, which essentially mirrors the nation in population patterns. “We are still an attractive enough destination to have that as our insurance policy.”

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