U.S. Birthrate Declines for Third Year on Economic Worries

The U.S. birthrate fell 3 percent last year, the third straight decline, as the economy faltered and women delayed having children.

The birthrate dropped to 66.2 for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, the lowest since 1987, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The teen birthrate fell to the lowest since records began, declining 9 percent from 2009, at 34.3 births per 1,000 teenagers.

“You do see people make choices about family size in tough economic times, and that’s consistent with this data,” Preston Britner, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, said in a phone interview. “In an economy like this you see people making choices about at least delaying childbirth.”

The total fertility rate of 1,932 births per 1,000 women was below the 2,100-birth level at which the population can be replaced, the report said. Without enough children to replace parents as they die, countries may be burdened with the costs of elder care as the population ages and maintaining infrastructure without enough workers.

The two-year recession that began in 2007 has left the U.S. with unemployment hovering at about 9 percent. Extreme poverty doubled in Midwestern metropolitan areas from 2000 to 2005-2009 and rose by a third in the South, according to a report from the Washington-based Brookings Institution. The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 45.8 million in August, and the housing market continues to drag on the economy.

‘Immediate Deterrent’

“If you think about the effects of housing insecurity and an increasing rate of foreclosures, the idea of bringing kids into housing instability may be a more immediate deterrent,” Britner said. “When you already have three kids, so be it, you find ways to make do. But if you’re at the stage where you’re still making decisions, you may want to find ways to delay.”

The only group in which births grew was in women ages 40 to 44, which had its highest rate since 1967 at 10.2 births for every 1,000 women, the report said. The rate for women 45 and over was unchanged at less than one birth for every 1,000.

The cost of raising a first child under the age of 1 in a two-parent household in the Northeast is about $17,000 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s cost calculator.

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