Posted on October 17, 2011

In a Down Economy, Fewer Births

Gretchen Livingston, Pew Research Center, October 12, 2011

A sharp decline in fertility rates in the United States that started in 2008 is closely linked to the souring of the economy that began about the same time, according to a new analysis of multiple economic and demographic data sources by the Pew Research Center.

The year 2007 marked a record high number of births in the U.S.–4,316,233. Since that time, births have been declining, even as the U.S. population continues to grow. Preliminary data for 2009 indicate that the number of births dropped to 4,131,018–the lowest number since 2004. Provisional data show that in 2010 births numbered just over 4 million (4,007,000).

A state-level look at fertility illustrates the strength of the correlation between lower birth rates and economic distress. States experiencing the largest economic declines in 2007 and 2008 were most likely to experience relatively large fertility declines from 2008 to 2009, the analysis finds. {snip}


Since 2007, the U.S. fertility rate–which controls for variations in the size of the female population of childbearing age–has dropped markedly from 69.6 births per thousand women ages 15-44 to 66.7 births per thousand women ages 15-44 in 2009. Provisional data for 2010 indicate a further drop to 64.7 births per thousand women ages 15-44.

The Pew Research Center analysis also finds evidence of an association between economic hard times and fertility declines by race and ethnicity. Hispanics, whose employment levels and household wealth were particularly hard hit by the Great Recession, have experienced the largest fertility declines of the nation’s three major racial and ethnic groups. Conversely, whites have experienced smaller economic hardships, and smaller declines in fertility. From 2008 to 2009, birth rates dropped by 5.9% among Hispanic women, while birth rates dropped 2.4% among black women and 1.6% among white women.


Hispanics Hardest Hit by Recession, Show Biggest Fertility Declines


From 2008 to 2009, the birth rate among Hispanics dropped almost 6%. In comparison, blacks experienced a 2.4% decline, and whites experienced a 1.6% decline. While Hispanics continue to have birth rates that are much higher than their non-Hispanic counterparts, the 2009 Hispanic birth rate of 93.3 births per 1000 women of childbearing age is the lowest rate since 1999.

The relatively large birth rate declines among Hispanics mirror their relatively large economic declines, in terms of jobs and wealth. From 2007 to 2008, the employment rate among Hispanics declined by 1.6 percentage points, compared with declines of 1.0 percentage points for blacks and 0.7 points for whites. The unemployment rate shows a similar pattern–unemployment among Hispanics increased 2.0 percentage points from 2007 to 2008, while for blacks it increased 1.8 percentage points, and for whites the increase was 0.9 percentage points. A recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center revealed that Hispanics have also been the biggest losers in terms of wealth since the beginning of the recession, with Hispanic households losing 66% of their median wealth from 2005 to 2009. In comparison, black households lost 53% of their median wealth and white households lost only 16%. {snip}