Birth rates in the United States took a tumble during the recession, particularly in the economically hardest-hit states, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.
In the analysis, released on Wednesday, the sharp decline in fertility rates started in 2008 and has continued to drop since the recession hit. In 2007, the U.S. had a record high number of births — about 4.3 million — before starting to decline in 2008 to 4.25 million. The number kept dropping in 2009 to 4.13 million, and in 2010, data shows there were just 4.01 million births.
And according to Pew’s state-level examination of fertility, the states suffering the largest economic decline in 2007 and 2008 had the most dramatic drops in birth rates over the next two years. Those states with relatively minor economic troubles saw little impact on the fertility rate in their state.
North Dakota, for example, which had one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates in 2008, was the only state to show an increase — albeit just .7 percent — in births from 2008 to 2009. Every other state and D.C. had either no change or saw the birth rate decline during that time.
The analysis reveals Hispanics, who were hit hardest in terms of employment and wealth by the recession, also experienced the largest drop in birth rates since the economic crisis kicked off. From 2008 to 2009, the birth rate among Hispanics dropped 5.9 percent, Pew found. Blacks saw a 2.4 percent drop, and whites had a 1.6 percent decline.
The research, the center wrote, shows a link between economic and fertility declines — and it means once the economy bounces back, the U.S. should expect the birth rate to do the same.
“Experts suggest that much of the fertility decline that occurs during an economic decline is postponement of childbearing and does not represent a decision to have fewer children,” the study’s authors write. “In other words, people put off having children during the economic downturn, and then catch up on fertility once economic conditions improve.”
Pew conducted its analysis based on fertility trends data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as economic information tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and RealtyTrac.
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