Economic Worries Trigger US Birthrate Slump

Thursday, 26 Jul 2012 10:40 AM

By Patrick Hobin

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The drawn-out recession has caused the U.S. birthrate — normally the envy of the developed world — to drop to its lowest point in 25 years, with the average number of births per woman falling 12 percent from 2007, according to USA Today.

The economy’s effect on birthrates in the United States has been more rapid and long-lasting than any downturn since the Great Depression, USA Today reported Thursday.

Americans are putting off having babies amid a poor economy, resulting in the country’s birthrate to reach its lowest point in 25 years. The average number of births per woman fell 12 percent from a peak of 2.12 in 2007.

The fertility rate is not expected to rebound any time soon and could affect birthrates for years to come, USA Today reported, citing Demographic Intelligence, a Charlottesville, Va., company that produces quarterly birth forecasts.

Demographic Intelligence expects the birthrate to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year — the lowest since 1987, according to USA Today.

The less-educated and Hispanics have experienced the biggest birthrate declines and births to college-educated, non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans have grown.

"What that tells you is that births have clearly been affected by the economy," Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence, told USA Today. "And like any recession, it doesn't hit all people equally, and it hit some people much harder than others."

The economic effect on birthrates has been faster and is more sustained than any downturn since the Great Depression.

"Usually consumer sentiment bounces back a little quicker," Sturgeon told the paper. "People are a bit in a wait-and-see pattern. . . . There's a sense of hesitancy, of 'What does better look like? How will we know?' — especially for those of prime child-bearing age. . . . The key word would be uncertainty, a lot of uncertainty. "

The U.S. fertility rate has stayed close to the replacement rate of 2.1 (the number of children each woman must have to maintain current population) for more than 20 years while rates in Asian and European countries have remained low.

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