Birth Rates In The US Are On The Decline
November 30, 2012

Analysis Finds That US Birth Rates Dropped, Latino Women See Biggest Decline

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A new study from the Pew Research Center recently found that the decline in U.S. birth rates following the Great Recession was led by immigrant women, whose birth rates dropped 14 percent between 2007 and 2010.

The study was conducted by analyzing data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau. The researchers found that, from 2007 to 2010, the overall birth rate dropped by eight percent while the birth rate for women who were born in the U.S. dropped by six percent. Based on these findings, the preliminary 2011 overall birth rate was the lowest level since 1920. The U.S. birth rate had been stable since the mid-1970s, but then started to decline in 2007 when the Great Recession began.

In particular, Latino women led the decline in birth rates.

“Hispanics were hardest hit by a loss of wealth, loss of jobs and increase in poverty,” explained the study´s co-author Gretchen Livingston, who serves as a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, in an article by Bloomberg News.

Along with the drop in birth rates, the number of people born in the U.S. also dropped following 2007. Overall, the numbers of births dropped seven percent, with births by foreign-born mothers declining 13 percent while births to U.S. born females dropped five percent. In 2010, there were 4.0 million total births that included approximately 3.1 million to U.S.-born females and 930,000 born to foreign-born mothers.

The paper doesn´t explain the factors that led to the decline in births of immigrant women, but it could be due to economic issues.

“The economy can have an impact on these long-term trends, and even the immigrants that we have been counting on to boost our population growth can dip in a poor economy,” remarked William H. Frey, a Brooking Intuition demographer, in a Washington Post article.

The drop in the numbers and rates of babies born was a significant change. Prior to that time, there had been a rise in the number of U.S. births. In particular, researchers noted that there was an increase of 16 percent in 1990 to 25 percent between 2005 and 2007. However, later in 2010, the rate of U.S. births dropped to 23 percent.

The team of investigators also compared demographic traits of U.S.-born and immigrant women, including factors like age, ethnic group, race, and marital status.

The study could possibly impact Medicare and Social Security, as both programs are supported by payroll taxes by adults who are currently working.

“When families are small, people rely more heavily on these programs,” Ted Fishman, who wrote “Shock of Gray” in 2010 on the aging population in the world, told Bloomberg News. “A low birth rate could be a recipe for mass poverty and isolation.”

On the other hand, researchers believe that policy makers should be mindful of the change in birth rates.

“We´ve been assuming that when the baby-boomer population gets most expensive, that there are going to be immigrants and their children who are going to be paying into [programs for the elderly], but in the wake of what´s happened in the last five years, we have to reexamine those assumptions,” Robert Suro, a professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in public policy, told the Washington Post. “When you think of things like the solvency of Social Security, for example...relatively small increases in the dependency ratio can have a huge effect.”