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NC’s Falling Birth Rate and the Potential Future Implications

Falling bar chart with doodles of baby items

Over the last several years, North Carolina’s population has surged. In 2023, North Carolina added more people than any other state except for Texas and Florida. While our population has grown, though, our birth rate has not. In fact, between 2007 and 2022, the number of births per 1,000 residents fell from 14.4 births to 11.4 births. This number is below replacement level, which means that – excluding migration – North Carolina’s population will progressively shrink and become disproportionately older. Nationally, by 2030, almost 19 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older, up from just over 13 percent in 2013. This presents several challenges for the coming years.

The DINK Lifestyle and Related Long-Term Challenges

The rise of the DINK lifestyle (Dual Income, No Kids) has taken the internet by storm in the last year. Married couples are choosing not to have kids so they can continue to live a life free of additional responsibility and restrictions. The downside of this decision, however, will hit them in a few decades when they are elderly and have no children to help care for them.

While our society has some safeguards to help protect people in retirement, such as Medicare and retirement accounts, these services will only cover so much. While many elderly individuals may be able to afford care from a medical professional, it will not fully compensate for the roles that children would have played. Whether it is help with tasks like grocery shopping, overseeing medical care, or even providing companionship, family offers support that cannot be replaced by hired help. Research has reinforced this, as studies have found that kinless older adults experience poorer mental health and social activity outcomes.

More People Relying on Welfare

The way that the social security system works is that the people currently paying into the system are directly supporting the people currently relying on the system. An aging population, especially with an ever-increasing life expectancy, means that more and more people will be relying on social security while there will be fewer and fewer people paying into the system. This means, as one author writes, “For the system to maintain itself, then, younger Americans would have to pay more into the system, (i.e., through higher taxes), accept smaller benefits or stomach a later retirement age.”

Fewer People in the Workforce

An aging population means that as people leave the workforce, there are not the same number of people entering the workforce to replace them. With fewer people in the workforce, there will be less revenue available from taxes. For states like North Carolina, where nearly 50% of tax revenue comes from the individual income tax, this could have a significant impact on state budgets. Another side effect of a smaller workforce is that there will likely be fewer people working in each field and trade. For example, as the demand for healthcare increases, a shortage in healthcare providers could create a significant problem.

With the lowering fertility rate, not only will there be higher numbers of older adults without family to help care for them, but there will be fewer young people to fill in the gaps.

The Solution: A More Family-Friendly Culture

According to recent research, the biggest barrier to having children is finances. According to a survey conducted by, parents are spending 24% of their household income on child care. The majority of these parents are spending around $18,000 per year on child care costs.

The solution to this? Creating a more family-friendly culture that allows parents to be financially stable and still engaged with their children.

Part of the expenses associated with children go towards a rigorous schedule of extracurricular activities, or what Timothy Carney has called “maximum effort parenting”- which he strongly encourages parents to resist.  He encourages parents to not feel pressured to sign their children up for things like travel league sports teams if that’s not what fits their family culture the best. Kids don’t really need as much as our society says they need.

Another solution that could help enable couples to have kids is creating a more family-friendly work culture. In an episode of Family Policy Matters, Patrick T. Brown laid out several recommendations to help do this, including topics like childcare benefits, changes to scheduling practices, and better maternity leave policies.

Regina Bethencourt, a mom of four and CEO of Tenuto Consulting, has designed her business around some of these principles. She believes that moms shouldn’t have to choose between being a “girlboss” or a “tradwife.” As she wrote in a recent article, “Babies are born, elderly parents need care, and sickness happens. We understand that and believe work should mold around a life rather than the other way around,” she wrote for The Federalist.

As Christians, we believe that children are a gift of the Lord, a reward (Psalm 127:3 NASB), and we continue to pray that our culture returns to seeing them as such.


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