The tough economy and high unemployment have young people hesitant to reproduce, with the U.S. fertility rate expected to fall to a quarter-century low this year even though the number of women in prime childbearing age is swelling.
The average woman will have 1.87 children in 2012, according to the U.S. Fertility Forecast from Demographic Intelligence. That's 12% below the 2007 high of 2.12 children per woman.
By next year, the rate will hit 1.86. Fertility has declined most among Latinas and those with less education; births have risen for Asians and college-educated parents.
Birthing rates haven't been this low since the 1980s. Researchers blame the recession and its aftermath, which have hit young people especially hard.
Fertility fell most among women younger than 30, down 6% in five years among potential mothers ages 25 to 29. That's the generation slammed by steep unemployment – 12.8% for 18-to-29-year-olds – along with weighty student loans and a shaky housing market for first-timers.
But American women still plan to have more than two children on average over their lifetimes, according to the report.
"If a robust economic recovery kicks in, these intentions should translate into a spike in childbearing," said Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence.
The group predicts birth data and offers consulting for companies including Pfizer, Procter & Gamble and Disney, which consider family growth trends when planning and selling products such as toys and medicines.