The New Baby Bust

After WWII, birth rates in the U.S. rose dramatically. During the war, relatively few couples could afford to have children, and many young men were on the front lines anyway. When the war was over and economy began to expand again, Americans began to have more babies, giving rise to what became known as the Baby Boom.

We now may be experiencing a baby bust. A new Pew Report shows that the birth rate in the U.S. has fallen sharply since 2007 to the lowest level in the hundred years for which we have data. The fall in birth rates parallels the fall in incomes since the start of the financial crisis. In fact, Pew found that birth rates declined fastest in states where the economy had taken the biggest hit. The only state where birth rates rose was North Dakota, where unemployment never got higher than 4.3%. The report also found that birth rates dropped the most among the groups—Hispanic women in particular—that were hit the hardest by the recession. The correlation shows in the historical record too, with birth rates falling in the Great Depression and amid the economic crises of the early 1970s.

Lower birth rates are an adaptive response to scarcity. It is simply not the best time to have children. It’s possible this new doesn’t reflect a long-term decline in U.S. birth rates, sinceAmericans may simply be putting off having children until the economy improves. In fact, birth rates actually rose slightly among women older than 40, who can’t as easily put off having children. But the truth is the economy is likely to stay slow for some time. Even if it weathers the current eurozone crisis, the U.S. economy has been slowing since well before the financial crisis. And with U.S. work force shrinking as a percent of its population the U.S. may never return to levels of growth it saw in the second half of the 20th century. And that could mean that this is the beginning of a long-term slowdown of the growth of the U.S. population.

Photo: Nevit Dilmen

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less