Fertility rates in the United States and in Michigan have been steadily declining. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, since the year 2000 fertility rates in the U.S. peaked at 69.5 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age in 2007. Since then the rates have continued to fall. Between 2011 and 2016 the fertility rate hovered between 63.2 and 62 before dropping to 60.3 in 2017 and 59.5 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age in 2018. In Michigan, the fertility rate has consistently been lower than that of the U.S., but it too has been on the decline. Since the year 2000 the fertility rate peaked in 2000 at 63 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age. Up until 2009 the fertility rate fluctuated between about 62 and 60.5, then in 2009 the rate dropped to 58.8 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age. Between 2013 and 2016 the fertility rate again increased to about 60 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age before again dropping to 59.5 in 2017 and 58.5 in 2018. In raw numbers, in 2018 there were 110,293 births in Michigan, the lowest number since 1941.
According to a recent New York Times article, fertility rates tend to decrease with economic downturns. This happened with the Great Depression and then again with the Great Recession in 2008. However, while fertility rates rebounded following the Great Depression this has yet to happen following the recent recession. Stable fertility rates are important as they help ensure there will be a healthy workforce to keep the economy moving and to care for the elderly populations.
Below is a chart detailing the fertility rates for all of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan in 2018, along with the rate for the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit. The only county to have a higher fertility rate than the State was Wayne County. In 2018 the fertility rate for Michigan was 58.5 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 and for Wayne County the fertility rate was 66.2; the City of Detroit had a fertility rate of 70.2. Washtenaw County had the lowest fertility rate at 40.5 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. One possibility for the low fertility rate in Washtenaw County is the fact that the county is home to the University of Michigan. With such a high college population, where the typical age is concentrated in the lower 20s, it is quite possible that the fact that fewer women in their 20s are having children contributed to the county’s low fertility rate.
In addition to publishing fertility rate data by county, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also publishes it by race. Below is the data for the year 2018 by county for white women. The fertility rate for white women in Michigan in 2018 was 55.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, and Wayne and St. Clair counties were the only two in the region with higher fertility rates. Wayne County had a fertility rate of 58.7 in 2018 and in St. Clair County the fertility rate for white women between the ages of 15 and 44 was 57.8. White women in the City of Detroit also had a fertility rate higher than the state; Detroit’s fertility rate per 1,000 white women between the ages of 15 and 44 was 57.9.
The fertility rate for black women in 2018 in Michigan was 67.6 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. Again, there was a higher fertility rate for black women in Wayne and St. Clair counties than at the state level; those rates were 71 and 70.7, respectively. The City of Detroit also had a higher fertility rate than the state at 69.2. A fertility rate was not available for Livingston County.
It should also be noted that the fertility rate for black women in the State of Michigan and across the counties in Southeastern Michigan was higher than the fertility rates for white women in the region and at the state level.
As fertility rates decline it is also important to understand that there seems to be a shift in the age women are choosing to have children. According to the same New York Times article, at the national level, fertility rates have declined the most among teenage women; the fertility rate for teenagers has declined 70 percent since 2001. Women in their 20s are also having fewer children, despite this age group traditionally having the highest fertility rate. In 2016 it was women in their early 30s who had the highest fertility rate. By 2018, the only age group that experienced an increase in fertility rates was women in their late 30s and early 40s. Also, according to the article, more than half the women in the U.S. who had children in their 30s had a college degree; this was more than the amount of women in their 20s with children and college degrees. There is a belief that women are waiting longer to have children to ensure their financial stability, career trajectory and that they have enough resources to provide for their children.