U.S. Birth and Fertility Rates Increase
Special Report - January 15, 2009
A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) detailing the birth and fertility rates of American women in 2006 contains both positive and negative findings. On a positive note, the number of births to women in the United States increased to the highest levels seen in four decades, along with increases in the fertility and birth rates of most women. The report, published January 7, shows that the total number of recorded births in the U.S. increased three percent between 2005 and 2006. According to the NCHS, there were over four million births in 2006, which is the largest number of births since 1961. In addition to increases in the number of births, the “crude birth rate” (i.e., the number of live births per 1,000 persons) rose about one percent between 2005 and 2006, to 14.2 live births per 1,000 persons. The total fertility rate (i.e., “average number of children that would be born per woman”) increased by two percent between 2005 and 2006 to 2.1 births per woman. According to the NCHS, “this is the first time the U.S. [total fertility rate] has been above replacement since 1971. Replacement is the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself.”
On the negative side, the birth rate for unmarried women also rose seven percent between 2005 and 2006. According to the NCHS, “more than 1.6 million babies were born to unmarried women in the U.S. in 2006, the highest number ever recorded in the United States.” This represents an almost eight percent increase in the number of births to unmarried women since 2005, and a 20 percent increase since 2002. In 2006, there were 51,271 births to unmarried women in North Carolina.
Equally as troubling, after declining 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, the birth rate for older teens ages 15 to 19 increased for the first time in 15 yearsby three percent in 2006. “The 3-percent increase in the birth rate for teenagers 1519 years in 2006 followed 14 years of continuous, though not steady, declines beginning after 1991,” the NCHS report explains. “The reduction during 19912005 averaged 3 percent overall per year; however, the declines were much steeper during 19942003 and slowed to about 1 percent annually beginning in 2003-2004.” Among younger teens, ages 10 to 14, the birth rate declined slightly, from 0.7 in 2005 to 0.6 in 2006, and the number of births to younger teens declined by about five percent.
The teen birth rate increased in 26 states, including North Carolina, where it rose two percent, from 48.5 per 1000 in 2005, to 49.7 in 2006. Overall, the teen birth rate was highest in the South and Southeast. It declined in only three statesNew York, Rhode Island and North Dakota. The number of births to older teens increased five percent, according to the NCHS, “the largest single-year increase in birth since 1989-1990.”
“The good news is that the small increase in the teen birth rate between 2005 and 2006 did not erase the substantial progress that occurred between 1991 and 2005, when the teen birth rate declined by a third,” writes Dr. Kristin Moore, Senior Scholar and Senior Program Area Director at Child Trends, in a recent report on the NCHS data, which was published jointly by Child Trends and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “In addition, the number and rate of births among girls 14 and younger continued to decline in 2006. Also, in absolute terms, the increases between 2005 and 2006 are quite small …” adds Dr. Moore.
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