US births hit a 30-year low, despite good economy

May 17, 2018 by Mike Stobbe
US births hit a 30-year low, despite good economy
This Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 file photo shows newborn babies in the nursery of a postpartum recovery center in upstate New York. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released on Thursday, May 17, 2018, 2017 saw the lowest number of U.S. births in 30 years, with birth rates declining not only for women in their teens and 20's but—surprisingly—also women in their 30's. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

U.S. birth rates declined last year for women in their teens, 20s and—surprisingly—their 30s, leading to the fewest babies in 30 years, according to a government report released Thursday.

Experts said several factors may be combining to drive the declines, including shifting attitudes about motherhood and changing immigration patterns.

The provisional report, based on a review of more than 99 percent of the birth certificates filed nationwide, counted 3.853 million births last year. That's the lowest tally since 1987.

Births have been declining since 2014, but 2017 saw the greatest year-to-year drop—about 92,000 less than the previous year.

That was surprising, because baby booms often parallel economic booms, and last year was a period of low unemployment and a growing economy.

But other factors are likely at play, experts said.

One may be shifting attitudes about motherhood among millennials, who are in their prime child-bearing years right now. They may be more inclined to put off child-bearing or have fewer children, researchers said.

Another may be changes in the immigrant population, who generate nearly a quarter of the babies born in the U.S. each year. For example, Asians are making up a larger proportion of immigrants, and they have typically had fewer children than other immigrant groups.

Also, use of IUDs and other long-acting forms of contraception has been increasing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report also found:

—The rate of births to women ages 15 to 44, known as the general fertility rate, sank to a record low of about 60 per 1,000.

—Women in their early 40s were the only group with higher birth rates in 2017, up 2 percent from the year. The rate has been rising since the early 1980s.

—The cesarean section rate rose by a tiny amount after having decreased four years. Studies have shown C-sections are more common in first-time births involving older moms.

—Rates of preterm and low birth weight babies rose for the third straight year, possibly for the same reason.

—Birth rates for teens continued to nosedive, as they have since the early 1990s. In 2017, they dropped 7 percent from the year before.

—Rates for women in their 20s continued to fall and hit record lows. They fell 4 percent.

—Perhaps most surprising, birth rates for women in their 30s fell slightly, dipping 2 percent for women ages 30 to 34 and 1 percent for women 35 to 39.

Birth rates for women in their 30s had been rising steadily to the highest levels in at least half a century, and women in their early 30s recently became the age group that has the most babies.

That decline caused some experts' eyebrows to shoot up, but they also noted the dip was very small.

"It's difficult to say yet whether it marks a fundamental change or it's just a blip," said Hans-Peter Kohler, a University of Pennsylvania demographer who studies birth trends.

Another notable finding: The current generation is getting further away from having enough children to replace itself.

The U.S. once was among a handful of developed countries with a fertility rate that ensured each generation had enough children to replace it.

The rate in the U.S. now stands less than the standard benchmark for replacement. It's still above countries such as Spain, Greece, Japan and Italy, but the gap appears to be closing.

A decade ago, the estimated rate was 2.1 kids per U.S. woman. In 2017, it fell below 1.8, hitting its lowest level since 1978. "That's a pretty remarkable decline," said Dr. John Santelli, a Columbia University professor of population and family health and pediatrics.

Explore further: Teen births fall again, another drop in decades of decline

Related Stories

Teen births fall again, another drop in decades of decline

June 2, 2016
Teen pregnancies fell again last year, to another historic low, a government report shows.

Is baby recession over? US births up after years of decline

June 17, 2015
It appears the baby recession really is over: Preliminary figures show U.S. births were up last year for the first time in seven years.

France leads EU fertility rates: agency

March 28, 2018
France and Sweden have the highest fertility rates in Europe but births across the EU are less than needed to replenish the population naturally, the bloc's statistics agency said Wednesday.

Women in 30s now having more babies than younger moms in US

May 17, 2017
For the first time, women in their early 30s are having more babies than younger moms in the United States.

Average age of women giving birth increases over the last year, CDC says

September 11, 2013
The average age of women giving birth in America rose last year as the nation's birthrate held steady after several years of decline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

US birth rate continues decline, CDC reports

January 15, 2015
(HealthDay)—The U.S. birth rate remained at an all-time low in 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Recommended for you

Students more likely to eat school breakfast when given extra time, new study finds

August 18, 2018
Primary school students are more likely to eat a nutritional breakfast when given 10 extra minutes to do so, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern University.

Like shark attack and the lottery, unconscious bias influences cancer screening

August 17, 2018
What do shark attack, the lottery and ovarian cancer screening having in common? It turns out our judgments about these things are all influenced by unconscious bias.

Phantom odors: One American in 15 smells odors that aren't there, study finds

August 16, 2018
Imagine the foul smell of an ash tray or burning hair. Now imagine if these kinds of smells were present in your life, but without a source. A new study finds that 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences ...

US drug overdose deaths surge amid fentanyl scourge

August 16, 2018
US drug overdose deaths surged to nearly 72,000 last year, as addicts increasingly turn to extremely powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl as the supply of prescription painkillers has tightened.

Parental life span predicts daughters living to 90 without chronic disease or disability

August 15, 2018
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that women whose mothers lived to at least age 90 were more likely to also live to 90, free of serious diseases and disabilities.

Eating breakfast burns more carbs during exercise and accelerates metabolism for next meal

August 15, 2018
Eating breakfast before exercise may "prime" the body to burn carbohydrates during exercise and more rapidly digest food after working out, University of Bath researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.