Wednesday, October 03, 2012

U.S. Births Decline for the fourth consecutive year in 2011

by Calculated Risk on 10/03/2012 04:37:00 PM

From the National Center for Health Statistics: Births: Preliminary Data for 2011. The NCHS reports:

The 2011 preliminary number of US births was 3,953,593, 1 percent less (or 45,793 fewer) births than in 2010; the general fertility rate (63.2 per 1,000 women age 15-44 years) declined to the lowest rate ever reported for the United States.

The birth rate for teenagers 15-19 years fell 8 percent in 2011 (31.3 births per 1,000 teenagers 15-19 years), another record low ... The birth rates for women in their twenties declined as well, to a historic low for women aged 20-24 (85.3 births per 1,000). The birth rate for women in their early thirties was unchanged in 2011 but rose for women aged 35-39 and 40-44.
Here is a long term graph of annual U.S. births through 2010 ...

U.S. Births per Year Click on graph for larger image in new window.

Births have declined for four consecutive years, and are now 8.4% below the peak in 2007 (births in 2007 were at the all time high - even higher than during the "baby boom"). I suspect certain segments of the population were under stress before the recession started - like construction workers - and even more families were in distress in 2008 through 2011. And this led to fewer babies.

As an example, it appears younger women have delayed having children, but the birth rate was unchanged for women in their early 30s - and rose for older women (the groups that can't wait much longer).

Notice that the number of births started declining a number of years before the Great Depression started. Many families in the 1920s were under severe stress long before the economy collapsed. By 1933 births were down by almost 23% from the early '20s levels.

Of course economic distress isn't the only reason births decline - look at the huge decline following the baby boom that was driven by demographics. But it is not surprising that the number of births slow or decline during tough economic times - and that appears to have happened once again.

I don't think the percentage decline in births will be anything like what happened during the Depression, but a 8.4% decline is pretty significant. My guess is births will increase in 2012 as confidence slowly improves.