Utah fertility rate dropping, according to new report

Apr 7, 2023, 5:00 PM

baby feet pictured, utah fertility rates are dropping...

The USU Utah Women and Leadership Project found that women are having less babies. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — The fertility rate in Utah is dropping as women are waiting longer and having fewer babies. Since 1970, women have gone from giving birth at the average age of 22 years and nine months to 28 and eight months, according to a report from the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

Project Research Associate Kaitlyn Pieper is co-author of Utah Women and Fertility: Trends and Changes from 1970–2021.

Utah’s total fertility rate is 42.4% lower than it was 50 years ago, the report found.

Pieper joined Dave & Dujanovic to discuss the report’s findings and trends.

What is the replacement rate?

Replacement-rate fertility requires each woman to replace herself. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are 107 boys born for every 100 girls. Thus each 100 women need to bear 207 children, on average, in order to produce the 100 girls needed to replace them. Dividing 207 children by 100 women equals 2.07 children per woman, which convention rounds up to 2.1, according to the Population Research Institute.

“The replacement rate is considered to be 2.1 children. And Utah’s now –as of 2020 — at 1.9. So we’re below that replacement rate. I think that’s an important piece of information that we have now,” Pieper said.

“What was the previous replacement rate? What was the highest that you saw? If we’re at 1.9 right now, what did it used to be?” Dave asked.

“In 1970, for Utah women, that number was 3.3 children. Nationally, it was 2.5. So Utah has always outpaced the national average and still does today,” Pieper said.

American women changing through the decades

“Did the research show why women are waiting longer, and why women in Utah are having fewer children?” Debbie asked.

“The scope of the research is the last 50 years. So we started looking at census data from 1970s and carried that on through . . . [to the] 2020 census data,” Pieper said. “It really depicts the changing landscape for Utah women as they navigate the decision of whether to have children, when to have children and how many to have.” 

  • In 1970, 11.2% of U.S. women ages 25 to 64 in the workforce held a bachelor’s degree, but a third (33.5%) had less than a high school diploma.
  • The 1980s marked the beginning of a steady decline in the gender gap of workforce participation as women increased their commitment to education and made career decisions that complemented their lifestyle preferences.
  • In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed and guaranteed employees unpaid time off for family and medical reasons, such as for the birth or adoption of a child.
  • In 1998, leadership from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued new directions on family size in their official handbook, affirming that the number of children a couple decides to raise ought to be a private decision.
  • Among U.S. women in 2010, 36.4% of those in the workforce held a bachelor’s degree, but by 2016, this share had increased to 41.6%.
  • Also in 2010, women earned 81.2 cents for every dollar men earned.

Related reading:


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Utah fertility rate dropping, according to new report