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America’s fertility is in precipitous decline. Our team of forecasters at Demographic Intelligence projects 3.84 million births in 2017, down from about 3.95 million in 2016.

And it’s likely to fall further — far short of what women themselves say they want for their family size.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reflecting births as of the year ending in September 2017, shows the total fertility rate at 1.77 lifetime births per woman, down 3.8 percent since 2015, and down 16.4 percent since its most recent peak at 2.12 in 2007. (The replacement rate in developed countries is around 2.1.)

The total fertility rate is a measure of how many children a woman entering her reproductive years today could expect to have, if age-specific fertility rates remain constant over time.

In other words, it’s a very simplistic forecast of lifetime births. But there is a lot that the available data can reveal.

The fertility rate has increased for women over…



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