Toronto Star

Jul. 3, 09:50 EDT

Canadian fertility rate falling compared to U.S.

Stats Can says Canadian woman may be waiting longer to start families

Toronto Star

OTTAWA (CP) Canada's fertility rate is falling compared with that of the United States, perhaps because Canadian women wait longer to start families and use better contraceptive methods than their American sisters, Statistics Canada said today.

For a century, Canada's fertility rate was higher than that of the United States, but that has changed sharply, the agency said.

"In 1999, Canadian fertility hit a record low of 1.52 children per woman, compared with the American rate of 2.08, a difference of more than half a child per woman," the report said. "Only 20 years ago, this gap was less than one-third of that size."

Canada's growth is now only about three-quarters of the growth south of the border and projections indicate that the growth rate in the United States will continue to be higher.

Earlier surveys suggested that Canadian and American women intended to have the same number of children, on average 2.2 each. However, although young American women have maintained relatively high fertility levels, fertility among young Canadian women has declined substantially in the last 20 years.

Most of the difference is attributed to the declining fertility of Canadian women aged 20 to 29, says the statistics agency. American teens also maintain higher fertility rates than in most industrialized countries.

"From 1979 to 1999, the fertility of Canadian women aged 20 to 24 decreased nearly 40 per cent and fertility among those aged 25 to 29 declined about 25 per cent. In the United States, fertility rates among women in these age groups remained relatively stable."

American women aged 20 to 24 have a fertility rate 75 per cent higher than that of Canadian women of the same age. Among of women aged 25 to 29, the American fertility rate was15 per cent higher.

Fertility rates among women aged 30 and over have increased at nearly the same pace in the two countries. In Canada, this increase did not offset the decline in the fertility rates of younger women.

The report suggested several possible reasons for the fertility gap, among them:

Canadian women are putting off having children until later in life, which can lower the number of children in a family.

They use better contraceptive methods, with more than eight in 10 opting for birth control pills, a method used by fewer than one in six American women.

Higher unemployment rates for young Canadians may deter child-bearing.

Overall, in 1999, Canada's population growth rate was 8.6 per 1,000, compared with 12.3 in the United States. About 337,200 babies were born in Canada in 1999. Had Canada's fertility rate been the same as that of the United States, the country would have had an estimated additional 123,000 births, bringing the population growth rate to 12.7 per 1,000.

Low birth rates mean that immigration has become the main contributor to population growth. At present levels, deaths are expected to exceed births in Canada in about 20 to 25 years. Population projections in the United States indicate that births will continue to exceed deaths for the next 50 years.

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