Expert Commentary

In a down United States economy, fewer births

2011 report by the Pew Research Center exploring the link between per capita income and birth rates, with particular attention to the 2008 recession.

Empty crib (iStock)

In 2009 the United State reported the lowest number of births in five years, after a steep and steady decline from the reported 2007 rates. What lies between these two data points? Recession. Graphing birth rates in the United States alongside per capita income tells a compelling story of two closely linked statistics.

A 2011 report by the Pew Research Center, “In a Down Economy, Fewer Births,” explored this link and analyzed the trends in birth rates immediately before, during and after the recession of 2008. The research was based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources.

Highlights of the report include that:

  • In 2007 births in the United States totaled 4,316,233. From there, the number declined to 4,131,018 in 2009, a drop of 4.3%.
  • Between 2008 to 2009, birth rates for Hispanics dropped 5.9%, for black women 2.4%, and only 1.6% for white women. The Hispanic population’s birth rate of 93.3 per 1,000 women in 2009 represents the lowest rate for that group in 10 years.
  • The fertility rate in the United States has dropped from 69.6 births per 1,000 women in 2007 to 66.7 births per 1,000 women in 2009. Projections for 2010 are also indicating an additional drop to 64.7 births per 1,000 women.
  • Overall, in 48 of 51 states (including Washington, DC), fertility declines occurred within two years of the start of economic decline.

The report states that while it’s uncertain if birth rates will recover as the economy does, “preliminary evidence suggests that the fertility decline may indeed be driven by postponement…. The recession is more strongly associated with fertility declines among younger women, who presumably have the luxury of postponing fertility until better economic times prevail.”

Tags: children, parenting, financial crisis

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