But as she looks around at her life — in Nashville, where she lives, in the nation, and the world — she has found herself wondering “do I want to have a kid who I hand this world off to?” Rather than visions of raising up children, educating and guiding them, Polowitz’s thoughts — “nightmares,” she says — are of having to protect that child in a world “devastated by the climate disaster.”

“Within the past couple of years, I have started to feel this ambient existential dread about the state of things,” she says.

She is not the only one. Ask a millennial, ages 23 to 38, and you find the doubts. The U.S. birthrate is currently at its lowest in 32 years, with 2018 being the fourth consecutive year of decline. Usually births increase at times of economic stability, so these latest numbers have led demographers to wonder what else is on prospective parents’ minds.

“The birthrate is a barometer of despair,” Dowell Myers, who studies this data at the University of Southern California, concluded when the latest numbers were released earlier this year. “Not a whole lot of things are going good, and that’s haunting young people.”