A report released recently by the Urban Institute tells us that American women are now reproducing at the slowest rate in U.S. history:
The decline in twenty-something fertility affects young women across races and ethnicities (figure 1). From 2007 to 2012, Hispanics experienced the largest decline in birth rates, 26 percent (from 1,570 to 1,158), followed by a decline of 14 percent for non-Hispanic blacks (from 1,216 to 1,046) and 11 percent for non-Hispanic whites (from 976 to 866).Fewer children means fewer opportunities for rural communities to grow and flourish. Oftentimes, rural communities can count on those former residents--who left the community to "spread their wings" in pursuit of education or career in more urban or suburban areas--to return when it comes time to raise children. There is certainly a recognized idealistic view of rural communities as being "a good place to raise a family." If raising a family is no longer part of the equation, perhaps returning to your roots becomes significantly less appealing as well.
One study by the University of Wisconsin found that young professionals under the age of 40 prioritize safe streets, place for family, and public schools in spots as their first, second, and fourth most important considerations, respectively. These factors take precedence over scenic beauty, a sense of community, and even proximity to friends and family. Those factors are also inherently dependent on a choice to have children; without children, it appears millennials are finding very few persuasive reasons to return.
As a millennial myself, I find it freeing and exhilarating to live in a time of increased reproductive choice and options that challenge the traditional family structure. With that being said, I do often face tough questions from my own relatives and primary school classmates who stayed behind in the rural town I grew up in. My decision not to return to my small hometown was tough, and I know many have found themselves in the same boat. The decision not to have children is, of course, highly personal and requires a lot of thoughtful introspection, but as we see more and more milllenials choosing to forego children, I believe we will see a nearly proportionate corresponding reduction in hometown-returners.