The United States and Sweden have two of the highest birth rates in the developed world, even though they are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of parental leave.
Sweden has got the world-best safety net, making it easier for couples to afford kids without one parent destroying his or her career. The U.S. – with one of the worst safety nets – has social flexibility. It is easier in America to jump in and out of the job market, to work from home, and so on. The parent doing so harms their career and lowers the family income but apparently not enough to stop women from having babies.
A Pew study released earlier this month shows a decline in the U.S. birth rate and ties it directly to the recession (as well as other factors).
The analysis suggests that the falloff in fertility coincides with deteriorating economic conditions. There is a strong association between the magnitude of fertility change in 2008 across states and key economic indicators including changes in per capita income, housing prices and share of the working-age population that is employed across states.
The nation’s birth rate grew each year from 2003 to 2007, and has declined since then. As will be shown later in this report, the number of births also peaked in 2007 to a record level, dipped nearly 2% in 2008 and continued to decline in 2009, according to National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data.
Meanwhile, the headline of my newspaper here in Stockholm last week?
Birth rates haven’t been this high in Stockholm since the late 1960s … despite the recession.
Chalk one up for the safety net.