Womens Health

Recession Makes U.S. Birth Rate Drop

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It's been a long recession, jobs have been stagnant, unemployment has been rising, and housing prices have plummeted into the basement. Now, we're learning of a new effect of the economy: our birthrate has dropped, too.

From the Washington Post:

The number of babies born in the United States has dropped for the second year in a row, according to new federal statistics released Friday that provide more evidence that the nation's economic troubles are affecting the birth rate.

Provisional data for 2009 found that an estimated 4,136,000 babies were born in the United States in 2009, a 2.6 percent drop from 2008, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The drop follows a 2 percent fall in births that occurred between 2007 and 2008, which pushed the nation's fertility rate below 2.1 per woman, meaning Americans were no longer giving birth to enough children to keep the population from declining.

That drop prompted speculation that the fall was the result of the recession--a notion supported by an analysis of data from 25 states, including Maryland and Virginia, that was released in April by the Pew Research Center. The report found that states that tended to suffer most from the recession had the biggest declines in births.


The Associated Press agrees:

Forget the Dow and the GDP. Here's the latest economic indicator: The U.S. birth rate has fallen to its lowest level in at least a century as many people apparently decided they couldn't afford more mouths to feed.

The birth rate dropped for the second year in a row since the recession began in 2007. Births fell 2.6 percent last year even as the population grew, numbers released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics show.

"It's a good-sized decline for one year. Every month is showing a decline from the year before," said Stephanie Ventura, the demographer who oversaw the report.

... "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," said Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University.


In perhaps one of the most creative responses, Catholic News Agency reports that the birthrate decline proves that the Obama administration's stimulus plan didn't work, while simultaneously bemoaning that it will cause Social Security to bankrupt:

“This decline in births is more evidence that the stimulus package, hailed by the current administration as the solution to our economic ills, is not working,” [Steve Mosher, president of Population Research Institute] asserted. “Every drop in the birth rate affects the baby boomers as well, for it hastens the day that the social security trust fund goes insolvent.”

Still, there is always a silver lining: now appears to be a great time to invest in companies that manufacture contraceptives.