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The Decline of Utah’s Fertility Rate

June 7, 2018
Katie Visco

Utah has long been known as the state with the highest fertility rate in the nation. Although it still has the highest birth and fertility rate, these rates has been on the decline since 2008. In this article we are going to dive into the facts and statistics about this descend, as well as discuss the reasons behind it and how it will affect the future.

  • The different types of fertility rates
  • A rundown of Utah’s declining fertility since 2008
  • Contributing factors to this decline
  • How is this going to affect the future of America?

The Different Types of Fertility Rates

people standing against wall
‍There are a few different kinds of fertility rates

Before we get into Utah’s facts and statistics, I thought we should clarify some terms because it can get confusing.

Total Fertility Rate

Total fertility rate (TFR) is what we are focusing on in this article. In order to determine TFR, you must first figure out what the age-specific fertility rate is. You do this by dividing the number of  live births for a specific age group by the total number of women in the age group, and then multiplying that by 1,000.

The TFR is then the average number of children that would be born to a woman during her life if, during her childbearing years, she has the number of births that correspond with the current schedule of age-specific fertility rates.

General Fertility Rate

The general fertility rate is determined by dividing the total number of live births (for a specific time period and area) by the total female population, aged 15-44, and multiplying that number by 1,000. In 2015, South Dakota’s general fertility rate rose to 78.2, just above Utah’s at 78, thus taking highest general fertility rate in the United States.

Birth Rate

Birth rate is similar to general fertility rate, except instead of dividing total number of live births by the female population, you divide it by the total population.

Utah’s Declining Fertility Rate in the Past 10 Years

mountains
‍Despite it’s high Mormon population, Utah’s fertility rate has been on a 10 year decline

Even though Utah’s fertility rate is high, especially compared to the national one, this rate has been on a decline for the past 10 years. Here’s a rundown from October 2017 of the fertility statistics in Utah since the Great Recession of 2008 from The University of Utah:

  • Utah maintains the highest total fertility rate in the nation with 2.29 births per woman in 2015. The U.S. total fertility rate for the same year is 1.84.
  • Between 2003 and 2015, Utah experienced its highest total fertility rate in 2007, peaking at 2.68.
  • Utah’s total fertility rate and annual births have continued to decline since 2008.
  • Age-specific fertility rates from 2003 to 2015 reveal decreases for mid-teens, late teens, and those in their early 20s, and slight increases to those in their late 30s and 40s.
  • Median age at first marriage has steadily increased over the past decade from 22.1 in 2005 to 24.3 in 2015.

Contributing Factors to this Decline

couples walking hand in hand
‍Factors such as finances, education and religious commitments are some of the driving forces between couples waiting longer to have kids

Economy & Finances

While the predominantly Mormon population isn’t waiting any longer to get married, they are waiting longer to have kids. This can be because of a few different reasons, but the economy is definitely a contributing factor. Utah’s economy has experienced a strong recovery from the Recession, but with variables such as high cost of living, student debt, and expensive childcare costs (not to mention that millennials are the first generation that isn’t on track to surpass their parents wealth), finances are taking their toll on young couples and families.

Education & Religious Commitments

There are many expectations that have been put on women in recent years. From being encouraged to go to college and start a career to being sent on an LDS missions, women are doing different things in their young adult years. While these are all good things, they do take time, which means that settling down and starting a family doesn’t always happen as soon as it used to.

What this means for the future

map of the usa
‍How this decline in fertility will affect the future

Utah’s fertility rate might be declining, but the population as a whole is not. From 2015-2016, Utah’s population grew by 2.03%. This population growth is still steadily fueled by births rather than migration, but its population rose by 0.8% (versus .3% nationally) from net migration. How does this change the landscape for Utah as we know it?

Attracting a Young Population

The high cost of living might be deterring young couples to wait longer to have children, but overall the state has a great economy which is attracting a younger generation. Deseret News says “The strong economy has helped the state attract young families who like the healthy job market, which also helps keep a high percentage of the young people already here as they move into new-adult life stages, like launching families and careers.”

Attracting a Diverse Population

Pamela Perlich, director of demographic research for the Gardner Institute, projects that in 50 years one third of Utah’s population growth will be attributed to immigrants, and of those immigrants one half will be from other counties. These figures can be controversial as some say that Utah is in danger of losing their local culture, but Perlich insists that diversity only enriches a community. She says, “For a place that has seen itself as forever young, forever white and forever homogeneous, every single one of those things has changed”.

Utah’s total fertility rate is still the highest in the country at 2.29 births per woman, but this has declined from the 2.68 high it hit in 2007. Although this is still substantially higher than the nation’s fertility rate at 1.84, it continues to do. There are a variety of different factors contributing to this, including finances and a delay in people having children once they get married. How does this affect the future of Utah? Well, we know that the population landscape is going to change: young professionals and families are moving to the area because of the good economy, and immigrants from not only out of state but other countries are diversifying the typical white demographic.

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