New report shows US birth rate has hit a record low—but please don’t blame moms

newborn baby in the hospital in mothers hands low US birth rate
Amy Drucker/Stocksy

Americans aren’t having as many kids, the most recent CDC report on the US birth rate shows. Fertility rates in 2023 dropped to just 1.62 births per woman, the lowest level recorded since data collection began in the 1930s, nearly a century ago. Echoing these findings, Motherly’s 2024 State of Motherhood survey discovered that today’s moms under 30 are 2 times less likely to plan for more children than moms of the same age were in 2019 (69% in 2024 vs. 35% in 2019).

But given the systemic issues at play when it comes to parenthood, this decline is understandable. In analyzing survey responses from nearly 6,000 women, Motherly’s survey found that the primary reasons for this decline in planning for more kids are varied and complex, comprising everything from financial reasons to childcare issues, medical concerns to global and environmental worries. Because of these significant concerns, when given the choice to grow their families, the majority across all age groups are saying “no thanks”.

Survey Question 6: Are you planning on having or adopting more children?

All Gen Z/Mil

Net <30

Net 30-39

Net 40+











Not Sure





Our systems are failing mothers—starting in pregnancy. And so we cannot and should not be blaming mothers for this declining birth rate.

Parenthood is a personal decision, but there are systemic factors at play

Deciding to become a parent is an entirely personal choice, but for many, the journey of motherhood can feel like an uphill battle due to a significant lack of support from government policies and community resources. It can be difficult to feel confident about growing your family when faced with the following challenges:

Mothers in the US have no federal paid leave and flexible job policies are not the norm. 

  • Gen Z mothers are 2.5 times less likely than Millennial moms to have position flexibility and half as likely to have paid maternity leave, Motherly’s survey finds.

Childcare costs are skyrocketing, and there’s no universal affordable childcare options.

  • Two-thirds of moms (66%) note that the stress and cost of childcare has made them consider leaving the workforce, up 14% from 2023. These sentiments are highest among Gen Z at 82%

It’s more expensive than ever to maintain your family’s standard of living.

  • Struggling with living expenses and school debt, more than a quarter of all moms (27%) report receiving regular financial support from their parents, increasing to 49% for moms under 30. In 2023, 55% of survey respondents said they never receive financial support from parents/in-laws. In 2024, that number decreased to 48%, our annual survey shows.

The US has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation.

Mothers don’t feel supported by their birth providers after delivery.

Women’s reproductive rights across the country are held hostage by stringent abortion policies that also have impacts on fertility treatments.

  • This election year, 84% of mothers in our State of Motherhood survey support federally protected reproductive rights.

Underscoring the reluctance: choice and concern

There are even more issues at play here outside of systemic problems, of course: There’s the simple fact that women may not want to have more children—which is their prerogative. More women are in the workforce than ever before, establishing their careers. More women have access to birth control, allowing them to better plan the timing of their future families—or forgoing family building altogether. In some ways, a declining birth rate could reflect broader societal shifts to focus on mental health and personal growth as more women put themselves first.

But, as the Wall Street Journal reports, at the same time, young people are also more uncertain about their futures and are spending more of their money on buying a house, paying off student debt, or paying for childcare for the children they already have. Yes, women have more choice, more career options and are able to prioritize their personal goals, but young women specifically have serious concerns about their future financial stability and the state of the world, which can make the prospect of growing a family increasingly difficult.

Motherly’s survey highlights various reasons cited by younger mothers for their reluctance to expand their families, including concerns about the current state of the world:

  • Combining financial reasons (11%), lack of support (11%) and career (11%); 33% of younger moms feel that the need/desire to work combined with inadequate childcare support contributes the most to not wanting to have more children.

  • Younger moms are much more likely to point to concerns about the environment and the state of the world as reasons not to have additional children (25% compared to 5% of those 30-39).

  • Although young, 1 in 10 (11%) of moms <30 cite medical considerations as the reason they would not like to have more children. This may be correlated with younger generations being more likely to be BIPOC and underserved by the healthcare system.

The declining birth rate has worried experts for years about the future of our country’s economy and impact on programs such as Social Security. For context, since the 1970s, the US birth rate has typically remained constant around the “replacement rate” of 2.1 children per woman, the rate at which the population is stable.

But the number of total births last year marks the lowest since 1979, with 3.59 million children born in 2023, a drop from 3.66 million in 2022, continuing a decline since the 2010s. (The data is considered provisional and will be finalized later this year.) Without a stable population, economic growth and safety net programs like Social Security are no longer a given. “[The declining birth rate] has the ability to have a significant impact on the way we live for a long time to come,” an economics professor told The Wall Street Journal.

It’s also important to note that the US is not alone in this shift. Globally, birth rates are declining, particularly throughout Europe and East Asia, and pro-family policies may not bring about long-term gains when it comes to fertility. Even countries such as Sweden and Norway, which have robust child tax credits and generous paid parental leave, are still impacted by declining birth rates, Vox reports.

What does work to support family building?

Rather than policies designed to increase the birth rate specifically, governments should focus on policies that improve people’s quality of life. “If you want to get your birth rate to increase to actually drive your economy, you need policies that are supportive of moms and families,” said Elizabeth Gedmark of A Better Balance at a media briefing hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. That could look like taking action on providing paid leave and affordable childcare, but also improving access to high-quality jobs and work policies that better support families, like flexible working hours or remote work.

“We hear regularly from young couples who are partnered up that they are not going to have children. Or they’re delaying, or say they’ll just have one child because it’s all they can afford, because of the cost of childcare and the inability for them to take off work and take care of a baby. We hear that all the time,” added Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Children First, at the briefing.

“We need to invest in people and their success,” said Alison Gemmill, a professor of population, family, and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University to Vox. “We always hear that it takes a village, but that village is just not what it used to be. It just seems like everything’s set up to be very hostile to parents.”