Drop in U.S. Fertility Rate Has Housing Consequences

Americans are having fewer children than ever, which could stoke new and different homebuying preferences.

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Americans are having fewer children, and the trend is apparent among home buyers, Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of REALTORS®, writes at the association’s Economists’ Outlook blog. The trend of a “baby bust” will likely continue even after the pandemic, Lautz notes.

The fertility rate in the U.S. fell by 1% in 2019, reaching an all-time low compared to the last 100 years. The trend has been reflected across racial groups, too. The fertility rate has dropped 2% among non-Hispanic white women, 1% for Black women, and 1% for Hispanic women, Lautz notes.

Among home buyers, the share who have children under the age of 18 has fallen from 58% in 1985 to 33% in 2020, according to NAR’s latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report.

“This trend has significant implications for home buyers,” Lautz notes. “What is important to a buyer with children will be different than what a buyer needs without children in the home.”

For example, buyers with children may put higher importance on location and schools as well as home size. Buyers with children typically purchase a four-bedroom home with 2,200 square feet; those without children usually purchase a three-bedroom home with 1,800 square feet, the research shows.

Lautz predicts that future fertility rates among women will continue to stay low. Working mothers have left the workforce at higher rates than fathers during the pandemic, often citing an increase in household demands and a decrease in jobs in the service sector. Their finances may be more strained, and increased household demands during the pandemic may have dampened the desire to add more children in their household. Also, Lautz notes that some women may be concerned about having a child during the pandemic, fearing exposure to COVID-19 during doctor visits.

Source: “National Baby Bust Is Mirrored Among Home Buyers,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook blog (March 4, 2021)