Utah was once the most fertile state in the nation, but that feather in its cap is now being passed to South Dakota, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah citizens, including Mormons, are waiting to start their families. This has resulted in fertility rates—the number of live births per 1,000 women—to drop from 121.9 to a mere 78 since 1980.
The trend to get married and start families young has meant fewer babies born to women in their 20s. People are opting to wait until they have finished with school and have a secure financial situation. While Mormons have traditionally been in the group to have children young and often, the LDS Church doesn’t have a position on when or how many children to have. Official church policy states:
“The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. “
The reality of fertility rates is a complicated beast. All sorts of factors play into why a state or country has a high or low fertility rate from socio-economic factors to access to modern medicine. Generally, developing countries have higher fertility rates because they also have higher mortality rates. For instance, Niger has a fertility rate of 6.62 children born per woman. This high fertility rate is necessary to keep the population stable. Industrialized nations have lower fertility rates. These countries need to average 2.1 children per 1,000 women (the replacement fertility rate). The United States is 1.87, which is lower than it should be, but higher than most other developing nations.
Why should you care?
While it might seem that a lower fertility rate means more resources for everyone, the opposite is true. The bigger the population, the more production results because people produce more than they consume. The larger the population, the bigger the labor force. Therefore, a falling fertility rate will create an economy that’s not growing. The smaller rising generation, according to Deseret News, won’t be able to support the older, larger generation.
Although the fertility rates and how they fit into the big picture are unknown, it’s easier to see the small, local picture. When it comes to Utah, although fewer women in their 20s are having children, more women in their 30s are having children, a good sign.