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US Birth Rate Drops as Economy Struggles

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. birth rate continued its decline in 2011, according to a preliminary report from the Centers for Disease Control, and researchers link part of the downturn in births to the economy.

Last year, the number of births hit a record low after declining 1 percent from 2010 to 3,953,593.  It is the fourth year straight year of decline in total fertility rate.  The baby boom that was once a part of U.S. culture has fizzled as the general fertility rate fell to a historic low in 2011, measured at just 63.2 births per 1,000 women age 15-44 years old.  That figure peaked in the mid-1950s at about 120 births per 1,000 women in that age group.

“The economy is definitely having some effect on fertility and we know that from previous decades during the Great Depression we saw a pretty significant drop in fertility and then again in the 1970′s,” Mark Mather, a demographer for Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit population research organization, told ABC News. “We weren’t too surprised to see a decline in fertility during this most recent economic downturn,” he continued. “If you look at European countries you can also see impact of high unemployment and when uncertainty about jobs, you tend to see fertility drop.”

According to the preliminary report from the CDC, teens, Hispanic, and African American saw birth rates decline in 2011. The birth rate for teenagers between the ages of 15-19 declined by 8 percent last year. The birth rate for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic black women was the lowest ever.

The drop in teen birth rates may not be due to the economy, said one researcher.

“It could be changes in contraception and social norm,” said Mather.  The recession may have played a role in Hispanics experiencing the steepest drop in fertility, he added.

“I think the recession is playing a role there -- especially since Latino men were hit very hard by the recession and the loss of jobs.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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