Boots & Sabers

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0801, 30 Dec 19

Wisconsin’s Declining Birth Rate

Policy makers need to get ahead of this. Every school district in Wisconsin is just whistling in the dark pretending that this won’t impact them… or hoping they will be out of office when it does. The taxpayers will be left holding the bag, as usual.

One reason is that women are delaying motherhood.

Instead of starting a family in their early 20s, they are waiting longer. From 2007 to 2017, the median age of a mother having her first-born child rose from 24 to 26. And many are holding off starting a family until their 30s, according to the report. That segment of mothers has actually increased.

However, that rise in births is countered by a large drop in teen pregnancies and millennials leaving the state. The latter could signal long-term challenges for Wisconsin and other states if the trend continues.

The report states this could have significant consequences for economic growth and for the funding of major federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Since 2007, Wisconsin’s birth rate has declined 12 percent. That’s about average compared to other states, except for North Dakota and the District of Columbia which saw increases.

“There’s a chance Wisconsin could actually see a situation where deaths exceed births, which would be unprecedented in the state,” said the report’s author, Dale Knapp.

The state’s fertility, the rate at which women ages 15 to 44 give birth, went down in 2007 with the Great Recession. When unemployment is high, people generally put off having kids until job prospects improve.

The declining birth rate not only has ties to the economy but schools as well. Because state funding is generally tied to enrollment, declining enrollment can mean fewer resources.


0801, 30 December 2019


  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    Let’s not neglect the elephant in the room.    Liberals usher the unborn off to death camps with their serial killing policies.   That puts a huge dent in the birth rate as well.

    Liberalism at its core, hates humanity, and cheers lower birth rates.   To some extreme liberal elements,human extinction is a good thing….

  2. Pat

    What’s good though is the abortion rate is at its lowest in 46 years. Wisconsin remains at it’s lowest rate.

  3. jjf

    Owen whines, “Taxpayers left holding the bag.”

    Whose bag is it?

  4. jonnyv

    A lot of this can tie together. I personally don’t care that the birth rate is declining, as long as people who want to have kids can and those who don’t want to don’t. Many of my younger friends who are getting married (20’s) have no interest in kids right now, or ever (according to them). They see children as hampering on a lifestyle they want to live.

    But, the lower birthrate can mean bigger issues for us in the future. Social Security could be a big problem. Worker demand could be an issue. You can relieve some of those by improving immigration wait times and streamlining that situation as well as pushing back retirement ages. Or maybe automation and AI can also help reduce the need for employees.

    But, if you want to try and increase the birthrate in the US, we can look at incentives like better work leave, and better child care options.

  5. dad29

    ………….not with a bang, but with a whimper…………

  6. Owen

    I’m indifferent on trying to change he birthrate. One can spend a lot of time and money trying to fight major demographic shifts with little effect. I think it is more important to just ensure that we are making smart policy decisions with the data we have.

    I do think that a smarter immigration policies are important – more legal immigrants who will contribute to the worker/tax base at all economic levels and fewer illegal immigrants who are a net drain on public resources. We also need to make smarter decisions about our entitlement burden as we plan for a smaller workforce to pay for more non-workers (retirees, invalids, etc.). The problem is that most of our policy makers stick their heads in the sand and don’t do anything at all… until it actually hits and then we react in crisis mode.

    For example, some of our public school districts have seen a 10% or more drop in enrollment and are forecasting a continued slide. Yet, almost none of them are actually planning a downsizing in facilities and staffing. Instead, they wait for a budget shortfall and then make arbitrary cuts and/or beg for more money. What they should be doing is planning a consolidation and new staffing model to meet the existing demand instead of fantasizing that the forecasts are wrong.

  7. jjf

    Thank you for the explanation, Owen.

    So if you were superintendent running the zoo, how would you plan the downsizing, and who would you tell, and when?

    You think the supers and principals don’t see the trends and the numbers you do, or that they see them and don’t realize they’ll need to adjust, or that they never think about how they’ll do it?

  8. Le Roi du Nord

    “Yet, almost none of them are actually planning a downsizing in facilities and staffing”.

    Maybe in WOW county districts, but that statement is certainly not true in my local district, nor the 5 adjacent ones.  All are mainly rural, ag dominated land/economy base, and student numbers in a slow decline.  And all are keenly aware of the trends.  Maybe the boards in the districts you are familiar with aren’t as engaged as ours.

  9. jonnyv

    Owen, I assume from the school side I can understand not wanting to reduce certain staffing. I think there is a bloat in some administration side that can probably be taken care of.

    But many class sizes are exceeding 30 pupils / teacher. My son’s 5th grade class is currently at 34. And he goes to a well regarded school on the south side of Milwaukee. This is for a single teacher. Most studies say that optimal sizes are 27-30 students for elementary classes. Even if you take out 3 or 4 children, that class size is STILL too high.

    And from talking with friends of mine who are teachers, that scenario isn’t unique in the city of Milwaukee elementary schools. I am sure there are exceptions to that.

  10. dad29

    I do think that a smarter immigration policies are important – more legal immigrants who will contribute to the worker/tax base at all economic levels and fewer illegal immigrants who are a net drain on public resources.

    The concern here is finding ways to increase the birth-rate.  Immigration tweaks are not the first things that come to mind for me.

  11. jjf

    Dad29, have you been watching the Handmaid’s Tale again?

  12. dad29

    I see you’re a serious a player as you always thought you were, Jiffy.

  13. jjf

    Hey, you’re the old man who said he’s concerned with finding a way to increase the birth rate…  If immigration doesn’t help, what else are you thinking of?

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