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U.S. birth rates decline for 6th year in a row

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
In 2013, the birth rate for women under the age of 30 reached record lows.

The number of babies born in the United States declined again last year — for the sixth year in a row, according to a report released last week by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Some 3.93 million babies were born in the U.S. in 2013. That number was down slightly (less than 1 percent) from the 3.95 million babies born in 2012, but it represented a 9 percent drop from the all-time high of 4.31 million births in 2007.

In addition, the general U.S. fertility rate — the average number of babies born to women between the ages of 15 and 44 during their lifetime — fell to a record low of 1.86.

The birth rate needed to keep a population from shrinking is 2.1.

The general fertility rates were down 1 percent for non-Hispanic black women and 2 percent for Hispanic women from 2012 to 2013. The rate rose slightly (less than 1 percent) for non-Hispanic white women.

A matter of age

The reproductive choices of women in their teens and 20s are behind the declining birth rate, the report points out. In 2013, the birth rate for women under the age of 30 reached record lows. The rate for teenagers, for example, fell 10 percent in 2013, to 26.5 births per 1,000 women.

The birth rate continues to climb, however, among older women. In fact, the rate for women aged 35 and older is at the highest level in about 50 years, according to the report. Births among women aged 45 to 49, for example, rose about 15 percent in 2013, from 0.7 to 0.8 per 1,000 women.  In 1990, that statistic was 0.2 per 1,000 women.

The twin birth rate, which had been mostly stable since 2009, also rose slightly last year — about 2 percent, to 33.7 per 1,000 births. (In 2009-2013, about 1 in every 30 babies born in the United States was a twin. That compares with 1 in every 53 newborns in 1980.)

As the report notes, another study recently found that the number of multiple births — those involving three or more babies — has been trending sharply downward.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System
NOTES: Preterm is less than 37 completed weeks of gestation. Access data table for Figure 4 Adobe PDF file.

Fewer problem births

Two other positive birthing trends are highlighted in the current report. A smaller percentage of babies are being born prematurely (before 37 completed weeks of gestation). The U.S. preterm birth rate in 2013 was 11.39 percent, slightly lower than the 11.55 percent rate of 2012 — but 11 percent lower than the 2006 peak of 12.8 percent.

Minnesota’s rate in 2013 was significantly lower than that national rate: 9.85 percent, a decline from 10.51 percent in 2006.

In addition, after more than a decade of steady increases, the rate of cesarean (C-section) births is now falling, albeit slightly. In 2013, the C-section rate dropped to 32.7 percent of U.S. births from 32.8 percent for 2010-2012.

Most of this change is occurring among non-Hispanic white women. The C-section rates for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women remained unchanged in 2013, but have risen slightly since 2009.

You can read the report in full on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/08/2014 - 04:17 pm.

    Connect The Dots

    A decling birth rate goes hand in hand with declining real incomes for most Americans. Look for this trend to continue.

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