The number of babies born in the country has dropped four years in a row, a new CDC report says.
There were nearly 3.79 million births in the U.S. in 2018.(Seth Wenig/AP)
Fewer babies were born in the U.S. in 2018 than in any other year since 1986, new federal data indicates.
There were nearly 3.79 million births last year, the fourth year in a row births have fallen after an upward blip in 2014, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ahead of a final report on last year’s births that’s scheduled for release this fall, the new figures are the latest nod to long-term trends that reflect shifting social and population dynamics across the country.
Between 2017 and 2018, a decline in births was seen across major racial and ethnic groups: Births fell 3% for both Asian and American Indian or Alaska Native women, while white and black women both saw 2% declines. The number of births fell 1% for Hispanic women.
The new CDC figures, based on 99.73% of all births in 2018, also show that the country’s total fertility rate – an estimate of the number of births a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have during their lifetimes – fell to a level that marked “another record low for the nation” last year. To exactly replace a generation, the CDC says 2,100 births per 1,000 women are needed, but that rate reached just 1,728 per 1,000 in 2018.
States With the Highest Fertility Rates
“The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement for the last decade,” CDC researchers said.
An earlier analysis from the Pew Research Center indicated that between 1990 and 2015, immigrant women bolstered births in 48 states – all but Rhode Island and California – and helped offset the falling amount of births by U.S.-born women.
During that 25-year time period, “without these births to foreign-born women, the total decline in annual U.S. births would have been more than twice as large,” the Pew report said.
A previous CDC report also showed that over the last decade, the decrease in total fertility rate was more keenly felt in metro counties than in rural counties, which typically see higher fertility rates but poorer birth outcomes.
On average, rural women also tend to become mothers at a younger age, the earlier report noted, though falling teen birth rates across the country have helped push the average age at which women have their first child higher.
The new CDC data additionally shows that across the U.S. overall, the birth rate – measuring births per 1,000 women in a given year – fell between 2017 and 2018 from 60.3 per 1,000 to a provisional figure of 59.0.
The rate fell most markedly – by 7% – among 15- to 19-year-olds. Women in their late 30s and early 40s, meanwhile, marked the only age groups to see higher birth rates last year than in 2017.
“The Great Recession intensified this shift toward later motherhood, which has been driven in the longer term by increases in educational attainment and women’s labor force participation, as well as delays in marriage,” according to another Pew analysis published last year.
The new data also highlighted apparent shifts in how babies were born in 2018. The share of women who delivered via C-section, for example, fell to 31.9% – the lowest level since 2009. Previous research indicates the risk of maternal morbidity – labor or delivery complications such as hemorrhage and uterine rupture – is higher for cesarean deliveries than vaginal births.
The research also showed that the share of babies born preterm rose for a fourth consecutive year, reaching 10.02% in 2018 – due in part to a rising percentage of “late preterm” babies born between 34 and 36 weeks, especially among Hispanic and black women. The percentage of babies born with low birthweight rose for black women between 2017 and 2018, but remained level overall at 8.28%.
Babies born preterm or with low birthweight are at higher risk of “immediate life-threatening health problems as well as long-term complications and developmental delays,” according to a 2015 report from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.