What the low 2020 birthrate means for the agriculture industry

The economic impact of fewer babies.
The number of RSV cases in Wisconsin is increasing for babies and small children.(AP Photo/Greg...
The number of RSV cases in Wisconsin is increasing for babies and small children.(AP Photo/Greg Campbell)(NBC15)
Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 9:16 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The birthrate in 2020 dropped again, and according to the U.S. Census, it is at its lowest since 1979.

In 2020, just 3.6 million babies were born, a 4% drop from last year. It is part of a six-year trend, which has witnessed fewer babies each year since 2014.

“We are seeing a trend that is really occurring over a 50 to 100-year span, where women are having babies later in life,” said Dr. Christine Whelan, a consumer science specialist and clinical professor in the school of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She says stress about future safety and economic security often results in fewer babies, which resulted in an unsurprising drop in 2020. It joins a trend years in the making of families consistently delaying babies. Teen pregnancy is dropping, and more couples are waiting until their 40′s to have their first kid—all keys in dropping the country’s birthrate.

The birthrate in 2020 dropped again, and according to the U.S. Census, it is at its lowest since 1979.

From an economic standpoint, the dropping birthrate could impact industries that typically are passed down through families, like farming. The Farm Bureau reports 86% of agricultural products sold in the country come from family farms and ranches. So what is the future for the family heavy business?

“We have seen a real shift over the last century in what agricultural families look like,” said Whelan. “Kids were seen as people who would work on the farm and become part of the family business, but now, kids are not seen as an economic asset.”

Whelan added that while smaller families have helped change and may continue to change farming, it is not necessarily changing for better or worse. Technology is helping fewer farmers accomplish more, and to cut costs, the price of machines and high-power equipment is shared by farmers in an area.

As for any problem in finding a workforce for the future, if the trend of fewer babies continues, Whelan has some suggestions for that too.

The birthrate in 2020 dropped again, and according to the U.S. Census, it is at its lowest since 1979.

“Immigration is one way we can change the age dependency ratio in our country,” said Whelan. “If we invite young folks from other countries to be a part of our economic system, we can change these ratios and continue to grow our country.”

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