SALT LAKE CITY , Utah (News4Utah) — Utah is currently experiencing a strong economic growth. The state has recovered from the great recession; however, it appears the recession has left a lingering imprint on the state’s demographics.
Utah continues to have the highest fertility rate, youngest population, earliest age at first marriage, and largest household size in the nation.
The shifts that began in 2008 may indicate a new trend in fertility rates for the state.
Researchers at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute conclude Utah’s lower fertility rate is likely not a pregnant pause, but rather a new normal.
This study is exemplified in 28-year-old, Lauren Steadman. She has her master’s degree in information science and a well-paying job. Although she wants to be a mother someday, she’s forgone that life goal in order to be more financially secure.
“My husband and I made a deliberate decision to wait until we have kids later specifically after school, after we were established in our careers,” said Steadman.
Steadman also plans to have two to three children, a few less than her mother had.
“(I have) no plans as of now to quit my job and stay at home,” said Steadman.
Steadman says although she may change her mind when she has children, as of now, she plans to continue to work. She plans to either put her children in daycare or hire a nanny.
Pamela S. Perlich, Director of Demographic Research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, says research shows there are many reasons why women defer planned pregnancy.
Two major concerns are more responsibilities and expectations.
“We’re asking them to go on missions, to get higher education, to be in the labor force,” said Perlich. “The economic realities are most women end up working.”
When a women is ready to have a child, the challenge at hand is providing a society that supports that life decision.
“Women are balancing those responsibilities both in the home and in the workplace and we need to change our workplaces in order to more friendly to those family demands for both genders,” said Erin Jemison, Director of Public Policy at the YWCA of Utah.
Research shows there are many reasons why women delay having children and end up having fewer. Some of the reasons include:
- Social Pressures
- The societal pressures to earn advanced degrees, accomplish more in the workforce or serve a mission
- Rising costs
- Housing prices have skyrocketed. The market is not keeping up with the demands of migration, as Utah’s population continues to grow.
- Research shows, it’s becoming more expensive to raise a child
- Employment constraints
- Many women would like their employers to allow them to have more flexibility as they strive to balance their work and family responsibilities
- Few, adequate resources for both childcare and Pre-K education
- A lack of time
“I think we need to face the reality that it’s difficult to support the family on one income — especially as we have escalating housing costs, not enough housing here in Utah, and wages aren’t keeping up with that,” said Jemison.
Some solutions include:
- More flexibility in the workforce
- Tax breaks to support a growing family
- Government support, especially for child care.
“If we’re really serious about being pro-natal and wanting people to have children we will come up with paid parental leave,” said Perlich. “We’ll come up with more flexible hours that have young children.”
“Quality of care for children are really what folks are worried about and will really make a difference of the future of our state if we don’t figure out how to address that,” said Jemison.
Regardless of these constraints, our society can, and according to proponents, should adapt to this new norm.
“We’re not just observers here,” said Perlich. “We can change this. There are particular policies we can pursue that would be friendly to young families.”
“We’ve been given the message that the world is our oyster, that all opportunities are open to us, but I think sometimes we don’t acknowledge the struggles, both the push and pull,” said Jemison.