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US Birth Rates Are At Lowest They've Been Since The Eighties


People are having less children today than they have had in three decades. atvk/Shutterstock

In 2018, birth rates were at the lowest they have been for 32 years – a trend that can be blamed on declining fertility rates and an active decision by many to delay (or sidestep) parenthood.

This news comes courtesy of a report led by the National Center for Health Statistics published earlier this month. The figures show rates are down for all age, race, and Hispanic origin groups bar one. That being women in their late-thirties and above.


Nationally, birth rates in 2018 dropped 2 percent from 2017 to 3,788,235, which is equivalent to 59 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. Meanwhile, fertility rates fell to 1,728 births per 1,000 women – another 2 percent decrease on the year before.

This means the average number of births for a woman over a lifetime (if they were to stick at current rates) is 1.728, lower than what would be considered necessary (2.1) to maintain the current population. According to the report, fertility rate has generally been below replacement levels since 1971.

2018 birth rates were the lowest they've been since 1987, when "Two Men and a Baby" was in cinemas, shoulder pads were in fashion, and the median house prices was $104,500. maumau1968/YouTube

The highest birth rate can be seen in the 30 to 34 age bracket, where there were 99.6 births per 1,000 women in 2017. That is still a 1 percent drop on 2017 levels. Indeed, the only groups to show an increase on last year were women aged 35 to 39 (52.6 births per 1,000), women aged 40 to 44 (11.8 births per 1,000), and women aged 45 to 49 (0.9 births per 1,000) – 1, 2, and 3 percent rise respectively. 

This echoes stories of millennials choosing to delay parenthood (if not avoid it altogether), whether for reasons of personal choice, political and environmental uncertainty, or financial practicality. Women in their early twenties (20 to 24) saw the birth rate drop 4 percent from 2017 to 67.9 births per 1,000 women, while women in their late twenties (25 to 29) saw birth rate drop 3 percent to 95.2 births per 1,000 women. But the biggest drop was those of teen mothers, with the number of births in the 15 to 19 age bracket dropping 7 percent to 17.4 in 1,000 women. That is 58 percent below 2007 levels and 72 percent since 1991 levels. 


There was a universal drop in birth rates for all race and Hispanic-origin groups mentioned in the report. That includes a 1 percent decline for Hispanic women, a 2 percent decline for non-Hispanic white and black women, and a 3 percent decline for non-Hispanic Asian and AIAN (American Indian and Alaska Native Resources) women. The birth rate for non-Hispanic NHOPI (Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander) women remained relatively stable on last year. 

In addition to changing birth rates, the report also revealed C-sections were at their lowest rates since 2009, while the number of women receiving first-trimester prenatal care was up. However, there was still a racial discrepancy with non-Hispanic white women (82.5 percent) most likely and non-Hispanic NHOPI women (52.5 percent) least likely to receive first-trimester prenatal care. 


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