As is well known, the birth rate in the United States is below replacement level, meaning that were it not for in-migration the U.S population would actually shrink over a period of time, a situation that is also found in most other highly developed industrial societies. Further, the U.S. birth seems to be linked closely to the state of the national economy, falling in hard times and rising as the economy improves. Last week demographers and economists were excited to see an uptick in the birth rate because it suggested young families were feeling more confident about the country’s economic future. Below are extract from the New York Times story on the topic (which can be found here in its entirety). Interesting to note from this article is the increase in birth rates for several U.S. ethnic groups.
“The sharp decline in the country’s fertility rate during the economic downturn has come to an end, federal data show, as an improving economy encouraged Americans to resume having babies. The number of babies born in the United States in 2012 remained flat, the first time in five years that the number did not significantly decline, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The leveling off capped a 9 percent decline in the fertility rate from 2007 to 2011, a drop that demographers say began after the recession took hold and Americans started feeling less secure about their economic circumstances.
The fertility rate is the total number of babies born per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. Last year it stood at 63, down slightly from 2011. At the current rate, women could expect 1.9 babies on average over their lifetimes, down from a high of 3.8 in 1957, said Brady E. Hamilton, a demographer and an author of the report.
The United States has a higher fertility rate than many other developed countries, bolstered by Hispanic immigrants, who are more likely than whites to be in their childbearing years. When rates are lower, as they are in countries like Germany and Japan, youth populations shrink, which can lead over time to a reduction in the size of the labor force and diminished tax bases.
In 2011, the Pew Research Center analyzed the fall in fertility by geography and found a strong link between falling fertility and economic malaise: the only state to show a slight increase in fertility between 2008 and 2009 was North Dakota, which had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
The decline had been particularly pronounced for women who were among the hardest hit by the recession: young women and Hispanics. The data released on Friday showed that the fertility rate for both groups was still in decline, though the pace of the drop had slowed considerably. Young Hispanics have experienced the largest decline, with the rate down by a third since 2007 among women ages 20 to 24, said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.
Another bright spot was births to Asian and Pacific Island women, which were up by 7 percent in 2012 from the previous year. The increase may be related to the fact that 2012 was the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac, an auspicious year to be born for many Asian families, Mr. Hamilton said.