U.S. Birth Rates Hit Record Low in 2011, Approach Europe’s Levels | TIME.com
We’re becoming Europe. At least, that’s what a long line of U.S. birth-rate figures seems to being telling us. And that’s bad news for the future of the country.
New numbers released by the U.S. government on Tuesday show record-low birth rates in 2011: the general fertility rate (63.2 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44) was the lowest ever recorded; the birth rate for teenagers ages 15 to 19 declined; birth rates for women ages 20 to 24 hit a record low; and rates for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women dipped. Some birth rates remained unchanged, like those of women in their late 40s. Only women ages 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 are more likely to have babies now than in the past.
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The data are part of a broader post–financial crash trend. Every year since 2007, when the number of births in the U.S. hit 4.3 million, Americans have brought fewer babies into the world. Much of that has to do with the recession: Americans apparently decided that they couldn’t afford to have as many kids in an unstable economy, even if they were married.
Such declines are typical during economic crises. During the Great Depression, birth rates dropped significantly, and the same thing happened during the stagnation of the 1970s. “We’ve seen this previously throughout the last 100 years,” says Mark Mather, a demographer for the Population Reference Bureau. “Fertility rates drop in periods of economic stress.”
It appears that the decline in birth rates has at least begun to slow, likely reflecting the fact that Americans are feeling more confident about their economic future. The birth rate fell by 1% in 2011, as opposed to the 2% and 3% drops in prior years.