Trend Alert: Gen Z and the Population Slowdown

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest trends that are impacting the daily lives of 16-24s.

In 2020, the birthrate in the US declined for the sixth year in a row, according to a new report by the federal government. The latest census results also confirm that the past decade saw the second slowest population growth since records began. There are many factors believed to be causing this trend. In recent years, the discussion has focused on Millennials choosing to have fewer children, start a family later in life, or not have children at all, but increasingly the attention is falling on Gen Z.

A report this week by The New York Times highlighted the fact that teen pregnancies have fallen by a staggering 80% in just 20 years. They suggested several key reasons for this. Young people are having less sex – a fact that is attributed to them spending less time together in person due to the rise of social media and online entertainment. Additionally, when they do have sex, they are more likely to be using contraception. Thanks to growing up with a world of information at their fingertips, Gen Z are very well informed about safe sex and how to access contraception, compared to past generations who may have suffered from a lack of sex education in school and misinformation spread among peers that was less easily debunked.

The third reason for the decrease in pregnancies among teens and young adults is that girls see a greater benefit in waiting to have children later in life. Compared to previous generations, there are more opportunities available to them in terms of career and education, and role models in their family and the media show them what they could achieve. On a less positive note, however, another reason many couples choose to delay having children is financial – they don’t feel they can afford the many associated costs, such as childcare, food, clothing, and health insurance.

This doesn’t mean that Gen Z won’t have children at all, but all signs suggest that, like Millennials, they will have children later in life and this is likely to mean that as a generation, they will have fewer children. The average age for a woman to have their first child is now 27, which has risen dramatically from age 23 in 2010.

From greater gender equality to better information about contraception, there are some very positive reasons for the decline in teenage pregnancies and the birthrate overall. However, the impact of this trend is very concerning, as it will result in an aging population, where there may not be enough young people to support the growing number of elderly people. Older generations rely on younger people to fulfil roles such as health and social care, an industry that is already struggling to find enough workers. And this is not just the case in the US – countries across the west and Asia are experiencing the same issue. If the declining birthrate continues as projected, governments will need to dramatically rethink the social safety net, considering ideas such as better support for working parents and better pay for care workers.

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