NPR logo The Birth Rate Just Hit A Record Low. That's Bad News For Medicare.


The Birth Rate Just Hit A Record Low. That's Bad News For Medicare.

The U.S. birth rate hit an all-time low last year, according to a report from the Pew Research Center — just 63 births per 1000 women of childbearing age.

This is a problem. Not just because there is less chubby-cuteness in the country. But also, as I reported earlier this month, fewer babies now means fewer working-age people a couple decades from now. And that means fewer workers helping to pay for programs like Medicare and Social Security that support the elderly.

The U.S. is not the only country facing this problem. The graph below shows the very clear, two-stage process that lots of countries are going through: First, people start having fewer babies. Then, over the following decades, the ratio of elderly people to working age people goes up and up and up. The U.S. is the orange circle; other countries are color-coded by region.

Note: The graphic below requires flash and may not appear for some mobile users.

Press play or drag the scroll bar above. Each circle represents a country; put your cursor on the circle for detailed info.

*Elderly refers to 65 and over. Working-age refers to people age 20-64.

Jess Jiang / NPR
Source:UN, Department of Economic and Social Affairs