By / May 7

A new provisional report from the Centers for Disease Control finds that the United States had the lowest number of births since 1979 and the lowest fertility rate in our nation’s history.

According to the report, the number of births for the United States in 2020 was 3,605,201, down 4% from 2019. This is the sixth consecutive year that the number of births has declined after an increase in 2014.

The general fertility rate reached another record low for the United States. The general fertility rate was 55.8 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down 4% from 2019. The total fertility rate was 1,637.5 births per 1,000 women in 2020, down 4% from 2019 to also reach another record low. This puts the total fertility rate at below the replacement rate.

In 2020, birth rates declined for women in all age groups 15–44 and were unchanged for adolescents aged 10–14 and women aged 45–49. The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 declined by 8% in 2020 to 15.3 births per 1,000 females; rates declined for both younger (aged 15–17) and older (aged 18–19) teenagers. 

The cesarean delivery rate rose to 31.8% in 2020; the low-risk cesarean delivery rate increased to 25.9%. The preterm birth rate declined to 10.09% in 2020, the first decline in the rate since 2014.

What is “fertility rate”?

Several different metrics are used to measure the “fertility rate.” The most common uses of the term refer to:

  • General fertility rate (GFR): This metric is the number of births per 1,000 women of childbearing age (i.e., aged 15–44). It measures the number of live births in a particular year.
  • Total fertility rate (TFR): This metric refers to the total number of children who have been born or are likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population. 
  • Age-Specific Fertility Rate (ASFR): This metric is the number of live births per 1,000 women in a specific age group for a specified geographic area and for a specific point in time, usually a calendar year. For example, all the births to women age 20 to 24 in the United States in 2015.
  • Completed fertility rate (CFR): This metric is the number of children actually born per woman in a cohort of women (typically those born in a country around the same time) up to the end of their childbearing years.

These distinctions are why reporting on fertility rates often give different dates for significant events, such as “record lows.” Recent news headlines reporting that “fertility rates in 2020 dropped to another record low” are referring to the GFR and TFR, both of which hit a record low last year. The CFR reached its record low in 2006. Because some women are having children after age 44, the general fertility rate might be at a record low and yet the total number of mothers might still be relatively high.  

What is the replacement rate?

The replacement rate is the total fertility rate necessary to replace both the mother and the father, and accounts for the number of children who won’t live to childbearing age.

There are several factors—such as migration, war, and disease—that can affect how many people in a country needed to be replaced each year. But assuming such factors aren’t having a major and unexpected impact on population, the total fertility rate that equals the replacement rate is 2.1 children per woman. This is the number of children generally needed per woman to ensure a broadly stable population, though it can vary slightly in countries where children are more likely to live to adulthood. In the United States the replacement rate is closer to 2.08. 

If the replacement rate is 2.1 over an extended period of time, the population in a country will remain about the same. If it increases or decreases, the population of the next generation will also increase or decrease. 

Why does it matter if the fertility rate declines?

In a population where the replacement rate is around 2.1, the number of people moving through each cycle of human development (e.g, childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, midline, late adulthood) is roughly the same at each stage. But if a generation is larger or smaller than other generations, it can have an effect on society that lasts numerous decades. For example, if there is a “baby boom”—an unexpected increase in the number of children born in a generation—a nation may need to build more schools, from the elementary to the collegiate level. But the next generation, if it is not equal in size, will be left with educational infrastructure that is not needed. 

In most developed countries, such as the U.S., the social safety net is structured in a way that makes young people a form of “old-age insurance.” Societies create a pay-as-you-go system that is dependent on there being a greater number of younger people of working age relative to those of retirement age. For instance, Social Security uses the payroll taxes of current workers to directly pay the monthly benefits of older, retired workers. This pay-as-you-go approach works best when there is a high ratio of workers to beneficiaries, such as in 1945, when there were 41.9 workers for every retiree receiving Social Security. But the system becomes more difficult to maintain when the ratio is reversed. In 2018 the ratio was 2.8 workers for every retiree, and it’s expected to drop to 2.2 by 2049. Because of a falling fertility rate, that number could drop close to 1:1 by the time younger millennials and Gen-Z reaches retirement age. 

Long-term declines in fertility can also have effects that ripple throughout society. For instance, as more resources are needed for the elderly relative to the young, they could be viewed as a “burden on society.” This could lead, as it has in Europe, to an acceptance of voluntary euthanasia. Population declines also cause hardship for rural areas. Because fewer children are born, fewer stay in the area to take care of the elderly population. This can require significant shifts in numerous areas, ranging from public health to church planting.

By / Nov 11

The Bible is very clear that Mary conceived the boy Jesus before she had slept with any man. She was engaged to Joseph but had not slept with him (Luke 1:27); she would not sleep with him until after they were married and Jesus was born (Matt. 1:25). She was a godly young woman; Joseph was a righteous man. They lived in a culture that valued virginity before marriage, in a way that is foreign to our society but right and beautiful. They knew as well as we do that babies are not conceived except by the natural process of human procreation.

So, when Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a baby, she is very surprised. Very, very surprised. “How will this be . . . since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).

The virgin conception of the Lord Jesus is both wonderful and meaningful; it points us to at least three facets of the incarnation. 

1. God is sovereign

This miracle makes it clear that the sending of Jesus was entirely the sovereign work of God himself. The astonishing births of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau, and then others in the Old Testament all the way down to John the Baptist, at least involved both a father and mother who wanted a child and—as we put it—were “trying for a baby”. But this most astonishing conception of them all involves no human desire or intention or involvement; God simply does this miracle by his own sovereign decision in the womb of the very surprised Mary (and to the surprise of the uninvolved Joseph).

The apostle John writes that Christians are given “the right to become children of God—children born [spiritually] not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will”; instead we are “born of God” (John 1:12-13). What becomes true of us spiritually by new birth (entirely the decision and initiative of God) echoes what was true of the Lord Jesus’ supernatural conception: no human desire or husband’s will was involved. No human beings did anything to help God send Jesus; God decided to do it, and he did it. There is no room for spiritual smugness on our part.

This miracle makes it clear that the sending of Jesus was entirely the sovereign work of God himself.

2. God did not adopt Jesus

The virgin conception of Jesus proves to us that God did not adopt Jesus as his Son. Sometimes people suggest that Jesus was a remarkable man, and so God decided to adopt him as his Son, perhaps at his baptism or at his birth. But the virgin conception means that from the very first moment of his human existence, Jesus was (and had always been) the eternal Son of God. Indeed, in that instant the One who had been God the Son from all eternity took upon himself a human nature: “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). 

This moment—this hidden, unwitnessed instant in the womb of the virgin Mary—was the most astonishing miracle in all of human history. 

3. God became man

The virgin conception of Jesus points to the mystery that this boy was at the same time both fully human—inheriting a fully human nature from Mary—and also fully divine. In some astonishing way that we can never completely describe or analyze, Jesus Christ was, and is, fully man and fully God. He is fully human, and yet without the taint and defilement of the sinful, spoiled nature that each of us inherits from our father and mother.

This matters. It means that, standing in heaven now at the right hand of the Father, there is a perfect high priest who is able “to feel sympathy for our weaknesses”, who “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus understands that loss of temper with your housemate, that selfish decision for your own comfort over serving others, that lustful or covetous thought. He knows. And yet he was without sin; and so he can save you out of it all.

No wonder Christians down the ages have stood in awe and wonder as they—and now we—have contemplated the miracle of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made flesh.

This is an excerpt from Christopher Ash’s new Advent devotional Repeat The Sounding Joy. This devotional will help you to celebrate afresh the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah in history, and learn what it means to wait for him with joyful expectation today.

By / Jul 24

I remember exactly where I was when I felt grateful for what my birth mom did.

I’ve always been thankful for my life, and I’ve always known that what my birth mom did was an incredible thing. My adoptive parents—the people I call Mom and Dad—have done a great job of making sure I knew that what my birth mom did was extraordinary. The selfless act of giving me up, of making sure I was raised in a loving home with two godly parents has been elevated in our home.

What she did was a big deal. It is a big deal. But I don’t know if I’ve truly believed that in my heart of hearts. I do now, though.

I love birthdays. Mine, yours, anyone’s. I think birthdays are important, and I enjoy planning the celebration for friends and family as much (if not more) than I enjoy being celebrated. The first birthday I celebrated after I graduated college and had moved away from home for my job was just a couple of years ago. It hit me as I was driving home from celebrating that if it weren’t for my birth mom, I wouldn’t get to have birthdays or celebrate anyone’s birthday. She gave me the opportunity to have birthdays.

It almost seems like it’s commonplace in our culture these days to have abortions. I hear about it often through conversations at work or by just reading something on the internet. It absolutely breaks my heart. And lately, my heart has turned toward my birth mom. How in the world could she have done something so incredibly selfless? Only through God’s grace.

I don’t think it’s easy to have a heart turn positively toward your birth mom. Sometimes, sure. But, lots of times, there are many questions turning in our head. “Why did she give me up? Did she not want me? Was I a mistake?”

I know a lot about my adoption, but I don’t really know my birth mom’s side. Through God’s sovereignty, I’ve been able to speak to my birth dad about some things, but to be honest, those questions still plague me. And if I keep asking them, my heart turns bitter toward her. I can easily get mad at her for what she did in giving me up. Society—and my flesh—would back me 100 percent if I decided to have this attitude all the time. I would be supported in my frustration and anger, my annoyance and pain, and my pity parties.

But, I don’t follow the path of society. I don’t say this lightly. The Christian life isn’t easy, and we will have tribulations. For some of us, that’s cancer or a miscarriage or growing up in a single parent home. I’ve had my fair share of troubles. My life has been good, but it hasn’t always been easy. Coming to a place where I can truly say I love my birth mom, where I am so incredibly grateful for what she did, and where I do not have anger in my heart when I think about her wasn’t—and still isn’t—easy.

Just like I imagine it was hard for her to give me up. I don’t have children yet, but I’ve been privileged to love two boys as “nephews” and other children as my students. I wouldn’t for one second want to give a single one of them up, and my love isn’t even a mother’s love.

What my birth mom did was radical. And what God did in my heart the night I started to truly become grateful for my birth mom was just as radical.

It’s okay to wonder why your birth mom gave you up.

There are times when I wonder if I’ll ever meet my birth mom and have the chance to say these things to her. For years, all I wanted to do was have a conversation with her, face to face, and ask her why she did what she did. I wanted answers, reasons, and facts. Now I just want her to know that I think what she did was brave, selfless, and courageous.

Like I said, this wasn’t an easy place to get to, but I do think this a place all adoptees who love Jesus and may be struggling with their attitude toward their birth mom can get to. Here are four things I’ve found helpful as I’ve learned to love my birth mom—even from a distance.

  1. Pray for her: You may not even know her name, but the beauty of serving a God as big as ours is that he knows. He knows the number of hairs you have on your head, so I can guarantee that he knows your birth mom’s name. If you’re thinking of her or just wondering why she did what she did, give it all to the Lord. You don’t know how he’s going to use that, but I know that my prayers for my birth mom helped change my attitude toward her—even when I didn’t know my attitude toward her needed adjusting.
  2. Go to counseling: Seriously, going to a godly, Christian counselor in regards to my adoption and my relationship with my birth mom was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. There are good Christian counselors out there who have been gifted with wisdom from the Lord and are willing to walk through the tough questions you may have.
  3. Ask the tough questions: I think those questions need to be asked. I think it’s okay to wonder why your birth mom gave you up. It’s helpful to process those questions with people who understand what it’s like to be adopted and with those who don’t. Just don’t stay in that spot. Wrestle with the feelings, seek godly counsel, and keep living your life.
  4. Thank God for your life and what he’s given you: My mom recently told me I needed to count my blessings in regards to a hard situation I’m walking through. It wasn’t necessarily the advice I wanted to hear in that moment, but in reality, it was some of the best she could give me. I fully believe that thankfulness changes a bitter heart. So, if your heart is angry or bitter, thank him for what he has given you—and maybe what he’s saved you from. Think about what your life could have been like if your birth mom didn’t place you for adoption, and thank him for rescuing you from that. Maybe your life, adopted or not, is still hard—but there are plenty of things you can be thankful for, I’m sure.  

And to the birth moms out there, please know this: I think what you have done is incredible. You have a strength that blows me away. Please don’t buy into the lie that you were a coward for not raising your baby. You are a champion for seeing that what you could give your child wasn’t the best, and you chose to do what was best for your baby—even if that meant not raising your child, yet still giving your child life. Thank you.

By / Dec 25

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about . . . “ (Matthew 1:18-25).  With those words, the Bible begins the story of Christmas, an event that has become the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world.

Here are five facts you should know about the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus:

1. No one knows what day or month Jesus was born (though some scholars speculate that it was in September). The earliest evidence for the observance of December 25 as the birthday of Christ appears in the Philocalian Calendar, composed at Rome in 336.

2. Despite the impression giving by many nativity plays and Christmas carols, the Bible doesn't specify: that Mary rode a donkey; that an innkeeper turned away Mary and Joseph (only that there was no room at the inn); that Mary gave birth to Jesus the day she arrived in Bethlehem (only that it happened "while they were there"); that angels sang (only that the "heavenly host" spoke and praised God); that there were three wise men (no number is specified) or that the Magi arrived the day/night of Jesus' birth.

3. Rather than being born in a stable, Jesus was likely born in a cave or a shelter built into a hillside. The hills around Bethlehem were dotted with small caves for feeding and boarding livestock. The exact site of Jesus' birth is unknown, but by the third century, tradition had established a probable cavern. Constantine's mother, Helena, erected the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem over the small space.

4. The X in Xmas was not originally intended, as some people believe, to "take Christ out of Christmas." The written symbol X was frequently used to represent the letter in the Greek alphabet called Chi (the first letter in the Greek word Christos). In many Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, X abbreviates Christos (Xristos). This practice entered the Old English language as early as AD 1000 and by the 15th century, "Xmas" was widely a used symbol for Christmas.

5. Origin of Christmas terms: "Christmas" is a compound word originating in the term "Christ's Mass," derived from the Middle English Cristemasse

Other Articles in the 5 Facts Series:

Cuba  •   Modern Slavery  •  HIV and AIDS  •  Thanksgiving • Cooperative Program  •  Military Suicides • Gambling in America • Truett Cathy • Hunger in America • Suicide in America • Christian Persecution • Civil Rights Act of 1964 • Supreme Court’s contraceptive mandate decision • Fathers and Fathers Day • Euthanasia in Europe • Marriage in America • March for Life • Abortion in America • ‘War on Poverty’