Birthrate Up for Jews, Down for Muslims

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2007

The country’s fertility rate continues to rise; the average number of babies born to Muslim women is falling; having babies before the age of 20 is less common, and the average age when women have their first child is up. These are some of the findings of the report on Patterns of Fertility in 2006 released this week by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

A total of 148,170 babies came into the world last year: 71 percent of them were born to Jewish mothers and 23% to Muslims; 3% to women of undetermined religion; 2% to Druse; and 1% to Christians (81% of those Arabs). According to data from 2006, the average Israeli woman will have 2.9 children in her lifetime, compared to 2.8 based on 2005 figures. The average fertility rate among Jewish women rose from 2.7 in 2005 to 2.8 in 2006. Muslim women’s fertility has declined to four children, compared to 4.7 in 2000. The lifetime fertility rate for Christian Arab women was 2.2 children in 2006, compared to 2.7 in 1996.

The highest rates are in haredi towns such as Modi’in Illit (Kiryat Sefer) and Betar Illit, with an average of eight children per woman, and in Beduin towns such as Tel Sheva (6.8), Rahat and Arara. The least fertile cities were Ariel (1.7), Kiryat Yam, Tirat Carmel, Kiryat Bialik and Upper Nazareth.

There were 3% more newborns than during the previous year, with the increase due largely to a higher birthrate among Jewish women. Baby boys—51.3%—are more common than girls.

In 2006, the average woman gave birth to her first child at 26.8 years, about a year and six months older than a decade earlier. Only 3,966 babies were born in 2006 to women under the age of 20. Nearly 5,900 single Jewish women gave birth that year; most had never been married; the rate was 6.6 births per 1,000 single women in 2006, compared to 4.3 a decade before. Most of the increase was among women in their late 30s.

In 2005, 4.4% of all newborns were from multiple pregnancies. During the last decade, there has been a 12% increase in multiple births—putting Israel near the top in this category. Ninety-six percent of the multiple births were twins, and 3% triplets (compared to 10% triplets a decade before).

Fully 99.6% of all deliveries are in a hospital. But 3.6% of Muslim women in the South give birth at home.

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