How Many Children?
HOW MANY CHILDREN?
DEFINING CHILDHOOD AND ADULTHOOD
Exactly when childhood ends and adulthood begins differs among cultures and over periods of time within cultures. People in some societies believe that adulthood begins with the onset of puberty, arguing that people who are old enough to have children also are old enough to assume adult responsibilities. This stage of life is often solemnized with special celebrations. In Jewish tradition, for example, the bar mitzvah ceremony for thirteen-year-old boys and the bat mitzvah ceremony for twelve-year-old girls commemorates the attainment of adult responsibility for observing Jewish law.
Modern American society identifies an interim period of life between childhood and adulthood known as adolescence, during which teens reach a series of milestones when they accept increasing amounts of adult responsibility. At age sixteen most Americans can be licensed to drive. At eighteen most young people leave the public education system and are eligible to vote. At that time they can be tried as adults in the court system and join the military without parental permission. There are contradictions in the rights and privileges conferred, however. In many states teens under the age of eighteen can marry but cannot see X-rated movies.
In general, American society recognizes twenty-one as the age of full adulthood. At twenty-one young men and women are considered legally independent of their parents and are completely responsible for their own decisions. They are allowed to buy alcoholic beverages and become eligible to apply for some jobs in the federal government.
Historical events greatly influence the number of children born in a society, and two events during recent American history—the Great Depression and World War II—have shaped present-day demographics in the United States. During the early years of the Great Depression (1929–39), fewer babies were born because most people could not support large families. The small number of births during this time resulted in a relatively small population who were in their late forties and early fifties during the 1980s.
In contrast, the birth rate boomed during the years following World War II (1939–45). After ten years of economic hardship and four years of war, many Americans who had delayed starting a family wanted to have children during the post-war economic boom. During the period from 1946 to 1964 the United States recorded its highest-ever number of births. Figure 1.1, Figure 1.2, and Figure 1.3 are population pyramids, graphical representations of the age and gender distribution of a population. In the pyramids the letters BB represent the age groups that are part of the baby boom generation. The bulge representing baby boomers moves higher on the pyramid as decades pass and baby boomers age. Boomers were in their midtwenties to mid-forties during the 1990s, their mid-thirties to mid-fifties in 2000, and will be in their sixties and seventies by the year 2025.
According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2004, Washington, DC, 2004, http://childstats.gov/ac2004/tables [accessed August 24, 2004]), in 2002 72.9 million children younger than the age of eighteen lived in the United States. This number is expected to increase to 80.3 million in 2020. However, because the country's entire population will increase, the percentage of children in the population will actually remain fairly steady, decreasing slightly from 25% in 2002 to 24% by 2020.
Family and Household Size
The composition of households in American society changed markedly in the twentieth century. According to the 2002 Census Bureau Report on demographic trends in the twentieth century, in 1950 families accounted for 89.4% of all households. By 2000 that number had decreased to
68.1%. The proportion of married-couple households that included at least one child under the age of eighteen has also decreased. In 1960 59.3% of married-couple households included at least one child under the age of eighteen, but by 2000 only 45.3% of these households had a child under eighteen living at home. (See Figure 1.4.)
The American family shrank in size during the twentieth century. In 1900 most households consisted of five or more people. By 1950 two-person families became the most common family type and remained so to the end of the century. The proportion of one- and two-person households increased from 1950 to 2000, while the proportion of households with three or more people steadily decreased. (See Figure 1.5.) Average household size declined from 4.6 people per household at the beginning of the century to 2.6 people in 2000. This was true partly because the population was getting older.
AN AGING POPULATION
The median age (half are older and half are younger) of the American population has risen quickly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in Census 2000 PHC-T-9. Population by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: 2000, median age increased from thirty years in 1980 to 35.3 years in 2000. Within a ten-year span, from 1990 to 2000, the median age jumped from 32.9 years to 35.3 years. This rapid increase in the median age is the result of three separate trends:
- Americans are having fewer children than their parents did.
- Baby boomers are reaching middle age and leaving their childbearing years.
- Americans are living longer because of health consciousness and medical advances.
RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIFFERENCES
Birth and Fertility Rates
Fertility is measured in a number of ways. One such measure, called the crude birth rate, is the number of live births per one thousand women in the population, regardless of their age. In 2001 the national birth rate was 14.1 live births per one thousand women. The birth rate for Hispanic women (of any race) was considerably higher (23) than for non-Hispanic African-American women (16.6), Asian/Pacific Islander women (16.4), Native American/Alaska Native women (13.7), and non-Hispanic white women (11.8). (See Table 1.1.)
Another way to measure the number of births is the fertility rate, the number of live births per one thousand women in the population between the ages of fifteen and forty-four years. These are the years generally considered to be a woman's reproductive age range. During the first ten years of the baby boom, fertility rates were well over one hundred births per one thousand women. In contrast, the fertility rate for American women in 2001 was 65.3 births per one thousand women, just over half the 1960 fertility rate of 118 births per one thousand women. In 2001 the fertility rate for Hispanic women was 96 births per one thousand women; non-Hispanic white women, 57.7; non-Hispanic African-American women, 69.1; and Asian/Pacific Islander women, 64.2. (See Table 1.1.)
A third way to measure fertility is the total fertility rate (TFR), or the total number of children one thousand women will have during their childbearing years if current fertility rates continue (in other words, the number of children one thousand women will have from the year they are fifteen through the year they are forty-four). A population will replace itself if this rate is 2,100 children per one thousand women or 2.1 children per woman, on average. This is
known as the population replacement rate. The TFR has not reached 2,100 since the 1980s. (See Table 1.2.)
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fertility rates among racial and ethnic groups are expected to differ markedly in the twenty-first century ("Projected Total Fertility Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin, 1999 to 2100," January 13, 2000). The white fertility rate is expected to rise slightly through the century but not to reach the population replacement rate. The fertility rate for African-American, non-Hispanic women will remain steady at about the population replacement rate. Native American and Asian fertility rates are expected to decrease slightly but remain well above the population replacement rate through the twenty-first century. The Hispanic fertility rate is also expected to decrease from a high of 2,920.5 births per one thousand women in 1999 to 2,333.8 births per one thousand women in 2100—a rate still well above the population replacement rate and well above the rates of other ethnic and racial groups.
After 2020, Hispanic births are expected to add more people each year to the United States population than all other nonwhite racial/ethnic groups combined. By 2010 the Hispanic-origin population likely will become the nation's second-largest group. The white, non-Hispanic population will drop from 69.4 percent of the total population in 2000 to 50.1 percent in 2050, while the Hispanic population will rise from 12.6 percent of the total population in 2000 to 24.4 percent in 2050. (See Table 1.3.)
Increasing Diversity among Youth
The youth segment of the American population is becoming more racially diverse. Between 1980 and 2002
the non-Hispanic white share of the under-eighteen population dropped from 74% to 60%. (See Figure 1.6.) During the same period the non-Hispanic African-American share of this population remained stable at about 15%. The Native American/Alaska Native share stayed at 1%. In contrast, the Asian/Pacific Islander share of the under-eighteen population increased from 2% in 1980 to 4% in 2000. The Hispanic share of the under-eighteen population showed the highest increase, from 9% in 1980 to 18% in 2002. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of the 2000 Census, one of every six children in the United States (17%) was of Hispanic origin.
The median ages of minority populations are significantly younger than the median age of the non-Hispanic white population, a natural consequence of more babies per woman born in these populations. In 2000 the median age of Hispanics was 25.8 years, Native Americans/Alaska Natives 28 years, Asians 32.7 years, non-Hispanic African-Americans
30.2 years, and non-Hispanic whites 37.7 years. Among people from one racial/ethnic background, people of Hispanic origin had the youngest population, with 35% under age eighteen, compared with 31% of the African-American population and 23.5% of the white population.
Evidence also suggests that racial and ethnic lines became less rigid in the United States in the last two decades of the twentieth century, as people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds parented children together. People who reported in the 2000 Census that they came from more than one ethnic or racial background had a significantly younger median age than all single-race groups, at 22.7 years. Almost one in two people (41.9%) with a mixed ethnic or racial background were under the age of eighteen. (See Figure 1.7.) This finding may indicate that distinctions between racial and ethnic groups in America will continue to blur in the twenty-first century.
|Crude birth rates, fertility rates, and birth rates by age of mother, according to race and Hispanic origin, selected years, 1950–2001|
|(Data are based on birth certificates)|
|Age of mother|
|Race, Hispanic origin, and year||Crude birth rate1||Fertility rate2||10–14 years||Total||15–17 years||18–19 years||20–24 years||25–29 years||30–34 years||35–39 years||40–44 years||45–54 years3|
|All races||Live birth per 1,000 women|
|Race of child:4 white|
|Race of mother:5 white|
|Race of child:4 black or African American|
|Race of mother:5 black or African American|
|American Indian or Alaska Native mothers5|
|—Data not available.|
|*Rates based on fewer than 20 births are considered unreliable and are not shown.|
|1Live births per 1,000 population.|
|2Total number of live births regardless of age of mother per 1,000 women 15–44 years of age.|
|3Prior to 1997 data are for live births to mothers 45–49 years of age per 1,000 women 45–49 years of age. Starting in 1997 data are for live births to mothers 45–54 years of age per 1,000 women 45–49 years of age.|
|4Live births are tabulated by race of child.|
|5Live births are tabulated by race and/or Hispanic origin of mother.|
|6Prior to 1993, data from states lacking an Hispanic-origin item on the birth certificate were excluded. Interpretation of trend data should take into consideration expansion of reporting areas and immigration.|
|7Rates in 1985 were not calculated because estimates for the Hispanic and non-Hispanic populations were not available.|
|Notes: Data are based on births adjusted for underregistration for 1950 and on registered births for all other years. Beginning in 1970, births to persons who were not residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia are excluded. The population estimates used to compute rates for 1991 through 2000 differ from those used previously. Starting with Health, United States, 2003, rates for 1991–99 were revised using intercensal population estimates based on Census 2000. Rates for 2000 were computed using Census 2000 counts and rates for 2001 were computed using 2000-based postcensal estimates. Estimates of intercensal populations used to compute birth rates for teenagers 15–17 and 18–19 years are based on adjustments of the revised populations for the 5-year age group, 15–19 years. The race groups, white, black, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Asian or Pacific Islander, include persons of Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.|
|source: "Crude Birth Rates, Fertility Rates, and Birth Rates by Age of Mother, According to Race and Hispanic Origin: United States, Selected Years 1950–2001," in Health, United States, 2003, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2003, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/tables/2003/03hus003.pdf (accessed August 24, 2004)|
|Asian or Pacific Islander mothers5|
|Hispanic of Latino mothers5,6,7|
|White, not Hispanic or Latino mothers5,6,7|
|Black or African American, not Hispanic or Latino mothers5,6,7|
|Children ever born per 1,000 women 40–44 years old, selected years, 1976–2002|
|(Numbers in thousands)|
|Children ever born per 1,000 women||Percent distribution of women by number of children ever born|
|Year||Number of women||Total||None||1 child||2 children||3 children||4 children||5 or more children|
|source: Barbara Downs, "Table 2. Children Ever Born per 1,000 Women 40 to 44 Years Old: Selected Years, 1976 to 2002," in Fertility of American Women: June 2002, Current Population Reports, P20-548, U.S. Census Bureau, 2003, http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p20-548.pdf (accessed August 24, 2004)|
|Projected population of the United States, by race and Hispanic origin, 2000–50|
|(In thousands except as indicated. As of July 1. Resident population.)|
|Population or percent and race or Hispanic origin||2000||2010||2020||2030||2040||2050|
|*Includes American Indian and Alaska Native alone, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, and two or more races.|
|source: "Table 1a. Projected Population of the United States, by Race and Hispanic Origin: 2000 to 2050," from U.S. Interim Projections by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin, U.S. Census Bureau, March 18, 2004, http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/usinterimproj/natprojtab01a.pdf (accessed August 24, 2004)|
|All other races||7,075||9,246||11,822||14,831||18,388||22,437|
|Hispanic (of any race)||35,622||47,756||59,756||73,055||87,585||102,560|
|White alone, not Hispanic||195,729||201,112||205,936||209,176||210,331||210,283|
|All other races*||2.5||3.0||3.5||4.1||4.7||5.3|
|Hispanic (of any race)||12.6||15.5||17.8||20.1||22.3||24.4|
|White alone, not Hispanic||69.4||65.1||61.3||57.5||53.7||50.1|