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US Birth Rates Affected By Economic Downturn

August 27, 2010

Health officials said Friday that the economy may be causing some women to think twice about having children as the birth rate in 2009 declined for the second year in a row.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4,136,000 children were born in 2009, which was down 2.6 percent from the 2008 estimate.

That followed a similar decline in 2008, which was the beginning of the economic downturn.  The CDC said the 2009 numbers are preliminary and could change.

There have not been any details disclosed on the characteristics of women who gave birth in 2009.
 
The National Center for Health Statistics said that births fell 2.7 percent last year even as the population grew.

“It’s a good-sized decline for one year. Every month is showing a decline from the year before,” Stephanie Ventura, the demographer who oversaw the report, told The Associated Press (AP).

More babies were born in 2007 than any other year in U.S. history.  The recession began that fall, bringing down stocks, the job market and birth rates.

“When the economy is bad and people are uncomfortable about their financial future, they tend to postpone having children. We saw that in the Great Depression the 1930s and we’re seeing that in the Great Recession today,” Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, told AP.

“It could take a few years to turn this around,” he added, noting that the birth rate stayed low throughout the 1930s.

A preliminary analysis of births in 2008 found that birth rates dropped for women under 40, but rose for women over 40.

The CDC said in a statement, “That may turn out to be the case in 2009 as well, but we won’t know until more data are available.”

The CDC said the declines might be related to the economic downturn in the last couple years.

“The recession appears to have started in late 2007, and declines in births in 2008 and 2009 would be consistent with that,” the CDC said.

Health officials still need more details on the demographics of mothers who gave birth in 2009 in order to confirm the connection.

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