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Adoptions may be impacted by drastic drop in U.S. fertility rate

Teenage boy and teenage girl looking at pregnancy test

Fertility (the ability to conceive children) in the United States has reached a record low, driven primarily by falling birthrates among teens and women in their early 20’s, according to a recent report published by the National Center for Health Statistics. The current rate for 2013, 1.86 births per woman, puts the U.S. slightly below many other developed countries.

It’s also a significant drop from the birth rate just seven years ago. In 2007, the U.S. had a birth rate of 2.1, which matches the “replacement rate” (the rate at which demographers say a population will remain steady without rising or falling significantly).

Reasons for falling birthrate among teens

Digging into the numbers a little deeper, this trend is most pronounced among teen mothers—who also happen to be the main source of babies placed for adoption. Several possible factors might be responsible for the drop. Among them:

  • Women in general have waited longer to have their first children. This adds up to a reduction in teen motherhood, and it makes older mothers who chose to wait less likely to have second and subsequent children.
  • According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Unplanned Pregnancy, more teens specifically are choosing to delay intercourse—partly because teen pregnancy is portrayed more negatively in media.
  • More sexually active teens are using effective birth control more consistently.
  • Those teens who are sexually active report having fewer partners than in the past.

America’s fertility rate compared to other countries

Looking beyond our borders, the U.S. fertility rate falls somewhere near the middle for developed countries. Australia, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom have birth rates that slightly exceed our rate of 1.86. Brazil, China, Japan and Russia have birth rates slightly below ours. The report notes that many of those lower-fertility countries have official programs to encourage a higher birth rate.

Impact of falling birthrate on adoptions

What are the implications for adoptive families? Assuming no change in the number of American families seeking to adopt, the findings suggest:

  • There will be fewer babies available for adoption in the U.S and elsewhere.
  • Families wishing to adopt at birth will likely face longer wait times before being matched with a birth mother.
  • Families wishing to adopt older children (such as those in foster care) and those with differing racial characteristics will likely continue to have shorter wait times.
  • Families seeking to adopt children from abroad may wish to avoid countries with birth rates significantly below the rate for Americans—especially Japan and Russia—because those societies face difficulties just holding their own populations steady.

Learn more about the drop in U.S. teen pregnancy.

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