Fertility and Birth Rates

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In 2012, the birth rate for women ages 15 to 29 continued to decline across all age groups, following a small peak in 2007.  The fertility rate for all U. S. women is now the lowest it has been since these data have been recorded.

Importance

The fertility rate measures the number of births occurring per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44 in a particular year; birth rates refer to this measure within particular age groups.  Tracking trends in fertility and birth rates is essential in planning for the current and future needs of multiple generations.  Sustained high fertility rates lead to disproportionately large populations of young dependents, driving demand for supports for young families, for an adequate number of schools, and for affordable child care.[1],[2] For example, during the baby boom period (births between 1946-1964), unanticipated high fertility rates caught communities unprepared, and without the school facilities needed to accommodate rapidly increasing numbers of school-age children. On the other hand, sustained low fertility rates can lead to an aging population and, in the long run, may place burdens on the economy and social services, because the pool of younger workers responsible for supporting the elderly accounts for a relatively smaller share of the population.[3]

Tracking age-specific and race/ethnicity-specific trends in fertility and birth rates also provides information on the divergent needs of different population groups. For example, high teen birth rates among Hispanics in recent years alerted groups working in adolescent pregnancy prevention to anticipate the particular needs of this population.[4] At the other end of the spectrum, increasing fertility among older mothers may be related to an increase in the incidence of Down syndrome.[5]

Trends

79_fig1Fertility rates in the United States declined sharply between the baby boom years of the 1950s and early 1960s, and 1980 (118 and 68 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age, respectively, from 1960 to 1980).  Since 1980, fertility rates have been relatively stable, varying between 64 and 71 births per 1,000 women. There were small peaks in 1990 and 2007, but rates have since gone down, and are the lowest in recent history, standing at 63 per 1,000 women in 2012.. (Figure 1) The total number of births in 2007—4,317,119—was the highest ever registered in the United States, though that annual number has since fallen.[6]

Differences by Age

79_fig2 Women in the middle of their childbearing years have the highest birth rates.  Specifically, rates are highest for women ages 25 to 29 (at 107 births per 1,000 in 2012), followed by those for women ages 30 to 34 (at 97 births per 1,000), and women ages 20 to 24 (83 births per 1,000). (Figure 2) Beginning in 2003, the birth rate for women ages 35 to 39 has been slightly higher than that for young women ages 15 to 19—a marked change from previous years.  Birth rates for women ages 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, and 45-54 increased between 2010 and 2012, while birth rates for younger women decreased. Declines were greatest for women between the ages of 15 and 24 (falling by 14 percent for women 15 to 19, and by 8 percent for women 20 to 24). (Appendix 1) Birth rates for women over 45, and for those under 15, were below one birth per 1,000 in 2012. (Figure 2)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[7]

79_fig3In 2012, fertility rates were highest for Hispanic women (74 per thousand), followed by rates for black (65 per thousand), Asian (62 per thousand), white (59 per thousand), and American Indian women (47 per thousand). (Figure 3) Between 2010 and 2012, rates fell for all of these groups except for whites and Asians, but declines were greatest among Hispanics.(Appendix 1) Among teens (ages 15-19), declines were seen in all groups, and for Hispanic teens the birth rate reached an historic low.[8]

Among Hispanic women in 2011 (the latest data available), Mexican women had a much higher fertility rate than Puerto Rican and Cuban women (73 births per 1,000, compared with 60 and 46 births per 1,000, respectively). (Appendix 1)

State and Local Estimates

State estimates for fertility rates and number of births by selected demographic characteristics for 20111 are available from: Births: Final data for 2011National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

Birth and fertility rates in greater demographic detail are available by state from Trends in characteristics of births by state: United States, 1990, 1995, and 2000-2002. National Vital Statistics Reports, 52(19). (See table 3).

International Estimates

International crude birth rates and total fertility rates** are available from the 2011 World Population Data Sheet of the Population Reference Bureau. (2011). Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau.

**Note: The international definitions of crude birth rates and total fertility rates differ substantially from the birth rates and fertility rates referenced in this indicator. For this reason, these international estimates are not comparable to the estimates presented here. Crude birth rates are defined as births per 1,000 of the total population (including all ages, races, and both genders). Total fertility rates are defined as the average number of children a woman would have if the current age-specific birth rates did not change during her childbearing years (usually between ages 15-49). For more details about these definitions, please see the publication listed above.

International total fertility rates are also available from the United Nations Population Division and World Health Organization

National Goals

None.

Related Indicators

Definition

The fertility rate is defined by the National Center for Health Statistics as the total number of live births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years. These rates are based on the most recent population estimates from the Census Bureau. Birth rates are different from fertility rates in that the denominator is not all women aged 15 to 44, but rather a specific age group.

For more detailed information, see Table 3 and the Technical Notes section of "Births: Final data for 2011".

Data Sources

Data for 2012: Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J. (2013). Births: Preliminary data for 2012. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(3). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.  Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_03.pdf.

Data for 2000-2011: Martin J. A., Hamilton B. E., Ventura S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., & Mathews T. J. (2013). Births: Final data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.  Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_01.pdf.

Data for 1990: Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Ventura, S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., Wilson, E.C., and Mathews, T.J. (2012). Births: Final data for 2010. National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(1) Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf

Data for 1950 through 1985: National Center for Health Statistics.  (2002). Health, United States, 2002. With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans.  Hyattsville, Maryland.  Table 3.

 

Raw Data Source

National Vital Statistics System birth data

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/births.htm

 

Appendix 1 - Fertility Rates(per 1,000 Women, Ages 15-44) by Race & Hispanic Origin, and Birth Rates1 by Age Group, Selected Years, 1950-2012

1950 1960 1970 19802 1990 1995 2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012*
Total 106.2 118.0 87.9 68.4 71.0 64.6 65.9 66.7 68.6 69.3 68.1 66.2 64.1 63.2 63.0
Race/Hispanic origin
White 102.3 113.2 84.1 65.6 68.3 62.6 65.3 66.8 68.7 69.4 68.3 66.4 64.4 63.4  -
White (non-Hispanic) - - - 62.4 62.8 57.5 58.5 59.0 60.3 61.0 60.5 59.6 58.7 58.7 58.7
Black - 153.5 115.4 84.9 86.8 71.0 70.0 68.5 71.4 71.7 70.6 68.8 66.3 65.5  -
Black (non-Hispanic) - - - 90.7 89.0 72.8 71.4 67.2 70.7 71.4 70.8 68.9 66.6 65.4 65.0
Hispanic1 - - - 95.4 107.7 98.8 95.9 96.4 98.3 97.4 92.7 86.5 80.2 76.2 74.4
Mexican - - - - 118.9 109.9 105.1 104.5 105.6 102.8 92.6 84.8 78.2 73.0  -
Puerto Rican - - - - 82.9 71.3 73.5 69.8 71.6 70.3 67.0 63.7 59.7 59.6  -
Cuban - - - - 52.6 52.2 49.3 49.1 47.9 47.6 50.1 46.0 46.4 46.1  -
Asian or Pacific Islander - - - 73.2 69.6 62.6 65.8 63.0 63.7 65.3 63.3 61.3 59.2 59.9 62.2
American Indian - - - 82.7 76.2 62.6 58.7 53.6 55.3 55.5 54.0 51.6 48.6 47.7 47.0
Age
10-14 1.0 0.8 1.2 1.1 1.4 1.3 0.9 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.4 0.4
15-19 81.6 89.1 68.3 53.0 59.9 56.0 47.7 39.7 41.1 41.5 40.2 37.9 34.2 31.3 29.4
20-24 196.6 258.1 167.8 115.1 116.5 107.5 109.7 101.8 105.5 105.4 101.8 96.2 90.0 85.3 83.1
25-29 166.1 197.4 145.1 112.9 120.2 108.8 113.5 116.5 118.0 118.1 115.0 111.5 108.3 107.2 106.5
30-34 103.7 112.7 73.3 61.9 80.8 81.1 91.2 96.7 98.9 100.6 99.4 97.5 96.5 96.5 97.3
35-39 52.9 56.2 31.7 19.8 31.7 34.0 39.7 46.4 47.5 47.6 46.8 46.1 45.9 47.2 48.3
40-44 15.1 15.5 8.1 3.9 5.5 6.6 8.0 9.1 9.4 9.6 9.9 10.0 10.2 10.3 10.4
45-544 1.2 0.9 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7
*Data for 2012 are preliminary.

1The total number includes births to women of all ages, 15-44 years. The rate shown for all ages is the general fertility rate, which is defined as the total number of births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. Age-specific birth rates are defined as the total number of births per 1,000 women in a specific age group (between ages 15 and 44).

2Data for estimates before 1980 are based on the race/ethnicity of the child, from 1980 on estimates are based on the race/ethnicity of the mother. Before 1980 data for the mother's marital status was estimated for the United States from data for registration areas in which marital status of mother was reported. For 1980 on, data for States in which the mother's marital status was not reported were inferred from other items on the birth certificate and included with data from the reporting States.

3Includes all persons of Hispanic origin of any race.

4Birth rates computed by relating births to women ages 45-54 years to women ages 45-49 years.

Sources: Data for 1950 through 1985: National Center for Health Statistics.  (2002). Health, United States, 2002. With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans.  Hyattsville, Maryland.  Table 3.  Data for 1990: Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Ventura, S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., Wilson, E.C., and Mathews, T.J. (2012). Births: Final data for 2010. National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(1) Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf. Data for 1995-2011: Martin J. A., Hamilton B. E., Ventura S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., & Mathews T. J. (2013). Births: Final data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.  Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_01.pdf.  Data for 2012: Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J. (2013). Births: Preliminary data for 2012. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(3). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.  Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_03.pdf.

Endnotes


[1]Weeks, J. R. (2002). Population: An introduction to concepts and issues (8th edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

[2]Coale, Ansley J. (1987). How a population ages or grows younger. In S. W. Menard and E. W. Moen (eds.), Perspectives on Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues. Pp. 365-369. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Vexler, E. J., and Suellentrop, K. (2006). Bridging two worlds: How teen pregnancy prevention programs can better serve Latino youth. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved from http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/BridgingEng_FINAL.pdf

[5]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. (2011). Facts about Down Syndrome. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/DownSyndrome.html#ref

[6]Martin J. A., Hamilton B. E., Ventura S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., & Mathews T. J. (2013). Births: Final data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.  Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_01.pdf.

[7] Hispanics may be any race. Estimates for whites and blacks do not include Hispanics.

[8]Martin J. A., Hamilton B. E., Ventura S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., & Mathews T. J. (2013). Births: Final data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.  Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_01.pdf.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends. (2013). Fertility and birth rates. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=fertility-and-birth-rates

 

Last updated: December 2013