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Marriage Rates, Birth Rates, and the Future of Social Security

The U.S. taxpayer-to-beneficiary ratio has dropped dramatically since the early days of Social Security, skidding from 42:1 in 1945 to less than 3:1 today, with projections calling for a continued decline in the years ahead. Although not the only factor contributing to Social Security’s looming insolvency problem, this ratio is a major indicator of what to expect in terms of revenue coming into the program.

The CDC reports that the 2020 U.S. birthrate fell by 4% from 2019 and, after a slight uptick in 2021, again dropped in 2022 marking a return to a pattern of declining births. This tends to presage the expected taxpayer-to-beneficiary ratio decline, as does the 3% increase in the U.S. infant mortality rate reported by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) for 2022.  As a result, the payment of Social Security benefits is projected to result in a declining number of taxpayers, exacerbating the program’s current and future deficit projections.  

Beyond the demographics and NCHS data, though, a recent post by Washington Examiner commentary editor Conn Carroll suggests another significant cause of the birth decline: a corresponding decline in the number of “households headed by married couples.” His article, which you can read in full here, reports that married women nearly double the number of children than single women. Conn’s article explores the societal aspects of this statistical change, including professional advances achieved by women as well as the level of job satisfaction realized by women.

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