Millennials, the First Generation to Plummet Birth Rates.

Camila Ricaud-HB

The fact that the average birth rate has decreased at a 45% rate in the developed world over the past century, seems to be a mind-boggling predicament; but what this really reveals is the shift in priorities society is taking when it comes to women’s place in the workforce. This statistic carries very intriguing information much deeper than what it seems. This downfall in population within the past decades speaks heavily about the economy.  As Charles Wheelan, economist and author of Naked Economics, states, “because women have better professional opportunities than ever before, it has grown more costly for them to leave the workforce”. [i] What Wheelan suggests with this is that the  position women have achieved in attaining well-paying and prestigious professions, has left them with a feeling of wanting to avoid this from ever diminishing.

When a mother stays home to care for a baby, the baby is expensive in that it is causing the mother to lose the money she would otherwise be receiving at her job. [1]  Wheelan continues this idea of opportunity cost in having babies with the thought that the primary cost of raising a child today is the cost of the earnings forgone when a parent, still usually the mother, quits or cuts back on work, to look after the child at home. [2]  Given the cost of childcare and current wage gap, it is not a surprise that women are not having as many children, or any at all.  Women are now outpacing men in earning college degrees and as we are aware, this is a milestone for women, further empowering them to compete and excel in the working force. [3]  

In the short run, the results of this drop in births might be beneficial to Mother Nature; but, it is a huge disadvantage and even a threat to the world economy. The short run seems as simple as a lifestyle and an opportunity cost. However, the long run carries the most negative threats. It involves a reduction in funds which the population contributes to such as Medicare and Social Security. It results in less workers, less resources, and a smaller market which evokes slower production rates, reduced market capacity and all in all, an economic downfall. [4]

Wheelan’s diligent analysis of the cause and results of the plummeting birth rate dilemma grants the reader with a wholesome understanding of the role economics plays and intervenes with our personal lives. It gives insight in how ones decision to not have children, is more than a personal decision but rather one that affects the future of the every single person.


[i] Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2002. [12]

[1] Howorth, Claire. “U.S. Birth Rate: Baby Boom and Bust Hurts the Economy – TIME.” Americans Hit Pause on Baby-Making and It’s Going to Hurt the Economy. Accessed October 20, 2016.

[2] Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2002. [12]

[3] Adamy, Janet. “Baby Lull Promises Growing Pains for Economy – WSJ.” Baby Lull Promises Growing Pains for Economy. Accessed October 20, 2016.

[4] Strumwasser, Nancy. “Dropping Birth Rates Threaten Global Economic Growth – CBS …” Dropping Birth Rates Threaten Global Economic Growth. Accessed October 20, 2016.



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