Saturday, December 1, 2012

1/12/2012: US birth rate hit an all-time record low in 2011

The 2011 preliminary data for the US released this week showed 3,953,593 births in the US, a 1% decrease (-45,793) compared to 2010. The US fertility rate of 63.2 per 1,000 women age 15-44 years has now "declined to the lowest rate ever reported for the United States."
Full release here:

In other words, the US birth rate is now below where it was during the WW2 years and the Great Depression.

Per release:

  • The number of births declined for most race and Hispanic origin groups in 2011, whereas the rate declined only for Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and AIAN women. 
  • 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, with rates declining for younger and older teenagers and for all race and Hispanic origin groups. 
  • 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.  
  • The birth rate for women in their late forties was unchanged in 2011. 
The worrisome trend here is not the decline in teenage births, obviously, but a combination of dramatic fall-off in the birth rates for 20-24 and 25-29 age groups. In addition, increases in 40-44 age group and 35-39 age group are associated with smaller family sizes.

  • The first birth rate in 2011 (25.4 births per 1,000) was the lowest ever recorded for the United States. 
  • The birth rate, the number of births, and the percentage of births to unmarried women each declined for the third consecutive year.  
  • The birth rate was 46.1 birth per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 and the percentage of births to unmarried women was 40.7. 

There are two trends working through here:
  1. The birth rate in the US has declined in every year since 2007 when the total number of births reached over 4.3 million - an effect attributable to the severity of the economic crisis. As the top chart clearly shows, this is similar to what was experienced during the Great Depression, albeit at a shallower scale. Same took place in the 1970s. The effect of the Great Recession is now more moderate than in the earlier years of the crisis, with 1% decline y/y in 2011 following on 2% drop in 2010 and 3% drop in 2009.
  2. Long-term trend to the downside in overall birth rates - the trend clearly present since the late 1950s. The rate of this long-term decline in the US is still benign compared to Europe. In Germany, birth rate currently stands around 1.36 children per woman, while in the US it is at 1.9.

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