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Representative David Schweikert - Vice Chairman

The Consequences of Declining Fertility for Social Capital

The Consequences of Declining Fertility for Social Capital

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Key Points

In 2020, the total fertility rate in the United States reached its lowest point on record. Fertility rebounded slightly in 2021, but Americans continue to not have enough children to maintain the current population. 

  • Lower fertility rates mean adults have fewer and smaller families, reducing the quality of community participation and undermining social capital.

    • According to JEC estimates, the share of adults at prime parenting age who do not have children increased from 14 percent in 1970 to 31 percent in 2021. Non-Hispanic white males experienced the largest increase in childlessness over this period, rising from 16 percent to 35 percent.

    • Compared to non-parents, parents are more likely to belong to religious organizations, volunteer, and spend time with relatives, and are less likely to feel isolated.

  • Lower fertility rates lead children to have fewer siblings or to have no siblings at all. Sibling relationships are often the longest relationships a person has in their life, providing stability and support.

    • According to JEC estimates, the share of 10-year-old children without any siblings increased from 7 percent in 1970 to 16 percent in 2021.

    • Children with strong sibling relationships tend to gain stronger interpersonal skills and exhibit more self-control.

  • Fewer and smaller families weaken the emotional and physical support networks of the elderly.

    • According to JEC estimates, the share of 75-year-old adults with any children of their own declined from 85 percent in 2008 to 76 percent in 2022 and will fall further to 58 percent by 2061.

    • Elderly adults who live with their adult children have better mental and physical health outcomes than elderly adults who live alone.

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