Why are California women giving birth at record-low rates?
By Ian Wheeler
The pace of motherhood in California is slowing and its members are aging, a shift demographers expect to continue and contribute to far-reaching and uncertain changes in the decades to come.
Last year, the state reached a historic milestone: the lowest birth rate on record – 12.4 births per thousand people. That rate was 12.3 for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and a Southern California News Group analysis of state projections shows the region’s rate could fall another 24 percent by 2040.
Related: When and how birth rates have dropped in California
California outpaced the nation by another key measure: declining fertility rates in what is considered childbearing age for women by the National Center for Health Statistics: 15 to 44. According to provisional state data, California last year saw 60.5 births per thousand women, compared to an all-time low 62 births per thousand nationwide.
Other trends also point to the coming changes in California’s maternal future. Fertility rates among California women under 29 fell from 1990 to 2015, most sharply by 74 percent among teens 15 to 19, according to state Department of Finance data. In contrast, rates for women aged 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 rose 45 percent and 67 percent, respectively.
After graduating college and moving to Orange County, Melissa Branch, 38, of Newport Beach wasn’t sold on the idea of settling down and having kids. She wanted to live her own life; travel and focus on her career.
Melissa Branch, 38, of Newport Beach with her son Frazier, 5-months, at Heller Park in Costa Mesa on Friday, July 14, 2017. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
“When I was in my younger 20s, the only things I was hearing were high divorce rates, failed marriages,” she said. “I made sure I did everything I wanted to […]