But though 2018 may have set a new record, other recent years relay much the same story: total births and the general fertility rate (births per 1,000 reproductive-age women) have been falling steadily for well over a decade.
The "baby bust" trend is not unique to the United States. A Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded study published in 2018 in The Lancet reported that nearly half of countries worldwide had fertility rates below the "replacement level" of approximately 2.1 children per woman's lifetime—a situation unheard of anywhere on the planet back in 1950. Describing this "watershed" finding, a scientist told the BBC that the revelation that half of the countries in the world are poised to experience shrinking populations "will be a huge surprise to people."
TIME magazine tells us that "it may not be a bad thing that fewer U.S. babies were born in 2018 than in any year since 1986," and it emphatically denies that "Americans are…getting less fertile, biologically." However, many studies highlight male and female fertility problems, including "significant downward trends" in sperm count and quality, and obesity-related fertility challenges in women. What is behind these problems? The U.S. media aren't saying, but published science provides strong indications that "environmental exposures arising from modern lifestyle…are the most important factors."