Culture

Why Is The Birth Rate In USA Higher Than In Europe, Despite Not Having Federally Mandated Maternal Leave?

By Gina Florio
·  4 min read
pregnant woman home

We've been told many times by progressives that mothers should be offered paid maternal leave from their company every time they have a baby—regardless of who they work for and what they do for a living. But the US still has a higher birth rate than Europe does, even without federally mandated paid parental leave. Why is that?

We know by now that the birth rate in the US has plummeted over the last 50 years. In the 1950s, women had a birth rate of 3.6 and in 2020 that fell to 1.6. Even Elon Musk has highlighted this fact, pointing to the possibility that we won't even be able to keep the same population we have now if we don't start having more babies. Many people wrote him off as a crazy billionaire who just wants to spread his seed, but he brought up a good point: women are having fewer and fewer kids as the years go on and this will undoubtedly affect the future of our civilization. However, the US certainly isn't the only country dealing with a decline in birth rates.

The US Still Has a Higher Birth Rate Than Most of Europe

The 2022 UN World Population Prospects found that the global fertility rate dropped from 3.3 in 1990 to 2.1 in 2021. This is an international issue that is even affecting countries like Brazil and Thailand. Most of Europe is falling behind the US in terms of birth rate, according to data from the CDC and Eurostat EU, which even broke down the birth state to each American state.

The country of Italy currently has an average birth rate of 1.2, compared to Texas' 1.8. For reference, any birth rate lower than 2.1 will likely result a decline of population. But when you look at the rest of the European countries to the States, it's clear that Americans are having more babies on average than Europeans are. For example, Spain's birth rate is 1.2, Alabama's is 1.8, and Florida's is 1.5. The population in the EU is 447 million and the American population is 333 million at the time this graph was made.

As we look at all the European countries that have a lower birth rate than most American states, it forces us to ask the question: why are so many women having more children in a country where federally mandated parental leave doesn't exist?

Why Do American Women Still Have More Babies Than Europeans Even Though There's No Federally Mandated Maternity Leave?

You've probably heard this line a million times: if women were granted federally mandated maternity leave by the American government, they would have more babies and be more inclined to become mothers. But the data shows otherwise.

Maternity leave is 410 days in Bulgaria, 49 weeks in Norway, 6 months in Iceland, 164 days in Finland, 43 weeks in Greece, 14 weeks in Germany, and 28 weeks in Czech Republic. It's a little different in the US, where the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children. If having a long maternity leave is supposed to result in mothers having more children, why isn't it working in the EU?

That leaves us with a very uncomfortable conclusion to consider: maybe paid maternity leave isn't the best way to foster more women having children after all. What people fail to realize is that culture plays a much more important role in the choices that families make, especially in terms of having children. American culture is more likely to encourage the nuclear family (although this has arguably been changing over the last several years), more likely to see young couples get married, etc. while European countries have a higher rate of children born out of wedlock and a lower rate of marriage.

It's also important to note that it's easy for a country like Finland to implement a maternity leave with a population of just over 5 million. New York City alone has more than 8 million residents. The US is also a much more diverse economy with 50 different states and many more businesses and corporations. A federally mandated paid maternity leave simply isn't possible the same way it is in many smaller European countries.

Besides, the data suggests that women aren't waiting for federally mandated maternity leave in order to have children. If anything, it could even suggest that offering a luxurious maternity leave could actually hinder mothers from having more children, as it would encourage them to keep working and have fewer kids in order to maintain their career. While mainstream society tells us that it's a sad thing when a woman leaves her job to stay home and raise her children, anyone who wants a strong foundation of the nuclear family would actually hope to see more of that in American society in order to increase the birth rate.