The US birth rate is at an all-time low. But maybe that's a good thing.

The National Centers for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this week that shows the fertility rate and number of births in American are continuing to decline. Fertility has dropped to an unprecedented low and the birth rate has plummeted to its lowest point in over three decades.

There were 1,728 births per 1,000 women, signifying a two percent decrease from 2017 and a record low for the nation. The report points out that the low fertility rate is below the level needed for the population to replace itself, 2,100 per 1,000 women, a trend that has been continuing since 1971.


However, there is an interesting, less negative-sounding statistic hidden in this report. While the birth rate continues to decline for almost every age group of women under 35, it has actually increased for women in their late 30s and early 40s.

So it’s not a total birth decline across the board. And some of the decline is actually a good thing.

For example, Brady Hamilton, lead author of the new report, told Time that a 7% decline in teen pregnancies is “welcome news” for public health, as most of these pregnancies are “mistimed” or “unwanted.” It also insinuates that more teens are using contraception.

Teen pregnancies are also proven to have a negative impact on the national economy. Teenage parents are less likely to graduate from high school or college and often enter the child welfare system, relying on taxpayers for medical and economic support.

What’s more, Hamilton says the report is only a snapshot in time — in this case, the year 2018 — and may not represent “births foregone." It’s simply births that have been postponed. He points out that “women generally do have, in the end, two children”— they might just be doing it later in life.

So people aren’t rushing to become parents, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Parents who welcome children later in life are more likely to be financially stable and children are more likely to thrive.

That said, if the overall population is truly slipping, Social Security and Medicaid could be threatened.

The idea behind these social program is that the working population pays into the fund with income taxes in order to support the aging population who once fulfilled the same duty. The mechanism only works if the fund continues to be fully replenished by each generation.

Experts are concerned that a staggering population will put a financial strain on the programs because there will be less tax-paying individuals to support the aging populations.

“All past projections of the proportion of the U.S. population that will be elderly, and eligible for Medicare and Social Security, have assumed that the previous higher birth rates remained constant,” John Rowe, Julius B. Richmond Professor of health policy and aging health policy and management, explained to FOX Business. “As rates have fallen, and fewer young people ultimately enter the labor force and pay into the Social Security and Medicare Trust funds, the solvency of these funds is threatened.”

It could also threaten the job market.

In recent years, the United States economy and job market have experienced much-needed growth, but the declining birth rate could signify a turnaround as demographers point out there will be fewer young people joining the working population.

Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California, called the situation a “national problem.”

He explains that initially, experts believed the falling birthrate was due to the recession, but now think it has more to do with the fact that young people aren’t optimistic about the future. "Not a whole lot of things are going good," he says, "and that's haunting young people in particular, more than old people."

Clearly there are many uncertainties when it comes to population growth and its impact on social programs, the job market and the economy overall. The silver lining is that if parents are being more mindful about how and when they have children, they will likely be better parents. And that alone could ultimately have a positive impact on future generations in every aspect.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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