published Friday, November 18th, 2011

Is economy best birth control? U.S. births dip again


AP Medical Writer

ATLANTA — The economy may well be the best form of birth control.

U.S. births dropped for the third straight year — especially for young mothers — and experts think money worries are the reason.

A federal report released Thursday showed declines in the birth rate for all races and most age groups. Teens and women in their early 20s had the most dramatic dip, to the lowest rates since record-keeping began in the 1940s. Also, the rate of cesarean sections stopped going up for the first time since 1996.

Experts suspected the economy drove down birth rates in 2008 and 2009 as women put off having children. With the 2010 figures, suspicion has turned into certainty.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt now that it was the recession. It could not be anything else,” said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization. He was not involved in the new report.

U.S. births hit an all-time high in 2007, at more than 4.3 million. Over the next two years, the number dropped to about 4.2 million and then about 4.1 million.

Last year, it was down to just over 4 million, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For teens, birth rates dropped 9 percent from 2009. For women in their early 20s, they fell 6 percent. For unmarried mothers, the drop was 4 percent.

Experts believe the downward trend is tied to the economy, which officially was in a recession from December 2007 until June 2009 and remains weak. The theory is that women with money worries — especially younger women — feel they can’t afford to start a family or add to it.

That’s true of Mary Garrick, 27, an advertising executive in Columbus, Ohio. She and her husband, David, married in 2008 and hoped to start having children quickly, in part because men in his family have died in their 40s. But David, 33, was laid off that year from his nursing job and again last year.

He’s working again, but worries about the economy linger. “It kind of made us cautious about life decisions, like having a family. It’s definitely something that affected us,” she said.

Kristi Elsberry, a married 27-year-old mother of two, had her tubes tied in 2009 after she had trouble finding a job and she and her husband grew worried about the financial burden of any additional children. “Kids are so expensive, especially in this day and age. And neither of us think anything’s going to get better,” said Elsberry, of Leland, N.C.

Many of the report’s findings are part of a trend and not surprising. There was a continued decline in the percentage of premature births at less than 37 weeks. And — as in years past — birth rates fell in younger women but rose a little in women 40 and older, who face a closing biological window for having children and may be more worried about that than the economy.

But a few of the findings did startle experts.

One involved a statistic called the total fertility rate. In essence, it tells how many children a woman can be expected to have if current birth rates continue. That figure was 1.9 children last year. In most years, it’s more like 2.1.

More striking was the change in the fertility rate for Hispanic women. The rate plummeted to 2.4 from nearly 3 children just a few years ago.

“Whoa!” said Haub, in reaction to the statistic.

The economy is no doubt affecting Hispanic mothers, too, but some young women who immigrated to the United States for jobs or other opportunities may have left, Haub said.

Another shocker: the C-section rate. It rose steadily from nearly 21 percent in 1996 to 32.9 percent in 2009, but dropped slightly to 32.8 last year.

Cesarean deliveries are sometimes medically necessary. But health officials have worried that many C-sections are done out of convenience or unwarranted caution, and in the 1980s set a goal of keeping the national rate at 15 percent.

It’s too soon to say the trend has reversed, said Joyce Martin, a CDC epidemiologist who co-authored the new report.

But the increase had slowed a bit in recent years, and assuming the decline was in elective C-sections, that’s good news, some experts said.

“It is quite gratifying,” said Carol Hogue, an Emory University professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology.

“There are strong winds pushing against C-sections,” she said, including new policies and education initiatives that discourage elective C-sections in mothers who have not reached full-term.

Hogue agreed that the economy seems to be the main reason for the birth declines. But she noted that it’s possible that having fewer children is now more accepted and expected.

“Having one child may be becoming more ‘normal,”’ she said.



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rolando said...

Reading all the stats [and a bit between the lines], it appears only the mid-to-upper classes are reducing their birth rate...the lower-to-mid are still having them.

Many a story has been written based on that premise. It does not bode well for what little remains of the traditional US culture...the one that made us great.

The birthrate is dropping for euro-based cultures worldwide.

November 18, 2011 at 4:49 p.m.
Shock said...

I don't see anything support your assertion that only mid-to-upper classes are reducing their birth rates, Rolando.

The only thing I see that could make you think that is the stat of overall children per woman being 1.9 and Hispanic (Catholic) women being 2.4. What you're not thinking about is the overall drop from 2.0 to 1.9 is about a 10% reduction while the Hispanic drop of 3.0 to 2.4 is about a 25% reduction.

Your post as a whole seems to exude some sort of fear that good old red blooded Americans are in danger of being "outbred" by Latinos. I'm not sure what traditional US culture you're referring to as being in danger as America is the great "melting pot", right? Every wave of immigrants who came ashore on Ellis Island had a hand in shaping our culture. For God's sake, some of your "euro-based" chosen people brought the Polka over here and we wound up with Lawrence Welk on our television screens. I can't imagine anything worse than that - ha!

November 18, 2011 at 5:34 p.m.
rolando said...

The problem of dropping birthrates among euro-based cultures is world-wide, shock.

Not all mestizos are Catholic, either.

America has not been a melting pot for at least 40 years...uncontrolled borders killed that concept. Ellis Island has been gone even longer. We are thoroughly balkanized.

You need updated. Try googling a few things like worldwide birthrates, for instance.

Ever wonder why the euro-based citizens here are soon to become a minority? All those Ellis Island immigrants were absorbed [melted] into our culture and became part of it. Today's aren't; they bring their culture with them, warts and all.

Pick any MTV show; you will see something worse than Welk ever dreamed of being.

Although, SanFran radio station KFOG had a sweatshirt reading, "Play an Accordian, Go to Jail." I still have one. [The sweatshirt.]

The examples given in the article are about women not having children because they cannot afford them. The 47% of our citizens who pay no income tax [including the sizable portion of those who receive a rebate check for money they never paid in] do not worry about the cost of having and raising a child -- the government pays all their bills so why should they? Seems to me that's a pretty good indicator of who is and isn't practicing real birth control.

It isn't the economy, either. The birth rate among euro-descent women has been steadily dropping for quite some time now...and it isn't just here in the US. They are a dying breed. Before you celebrate that, consider which group made us the greatest nation on earth. Hint: it wasn't the metizos.

November 18, 2011 at 10:58 p.m.
BravesDave said...

Amen Rolando.

November 19, 2011 at 9:59 p.m.
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