Publication Date:

Oct 01, 2018

Key facts about fertility and birth rates

  • The 2016 fertility rate for all U.S. women, at 62 births per 1,000 women, is the lowest rate since these data have been recorded.
  • In 2016, the birth rate for young women (ages 15 to 24) continued to decline after a small peak in 2007, whereas the rate increased slightly for women in the 25 to 44 age group.
  • Fertility rates in 2016 were highest for Hispanic women, at 71 births per 1,000 women, but their fertility rate has dropped 12 percent since 2010.

Trends in fertility and birth rates 

The fertility rate measures the number of births per 1,000 women of childbearing age (ages 15 to 44) occurring in a particular year; birth rates refer to this measure within particular age groups.

Following the Baby Boom years of the 1950s and early 1960s, fertility rates in the United States declined sharply until 1976 (118 and 65 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 1960 and 1976, respectively). Since the 1970s, fertility rates have been relatively stable, varying between 63 and 71 births per 1,000 women. There were small peaks in 1990 and 2007, but rates have since gone down to the lowest point in recent history, standing at 62 per 1,000 women in 2016. The highest total number of births ever registered in the United States—4,317,119— was in 2007 (Appendix 1).1

Differences by age

Women in the middle of their childbearing years have the highest birth rates. Specifically, rates are highest for women ages 30 to 34 (at 103 births per 1,000 in 2016), followed by those for women ages 25 to 29 (at 102 births per 1,000) and women ages 20 to 24 (74 births per 1,000). 2016 was the first year in which women ages 25 to 29 did not have the highest birth rate. Beginning in 2003, the birth rate for women ages 35 to 39 has been higher than that for teen women (ages 15 to 19)—a marked change from previous years. Birth rates for women ages 30 to 34, 35 to 39, 40 to 44, and 45 to 54 increased from 2010 to 2016, while birth rates decreased for younger women. Declines were greatest for women ages 10 to 19 (falling by 50 percent for women 10 to 14, and by 41 percent for women 15 to 19). Rates for women ages 20 to 24 also fell considerably, dropping 18 percent from 2010 to 2016. Birth rates for women over age 45 and for those under age 15 were below 1 birth per 1,000 in 2016 (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin2

In 2016, fertility rates were highest among Hispanic women (71 per 1,000), followed by rates for non-Hispanic black (63 per 1,000), Asian/Pacific Islander (62 per 1,000), non-Hispanic white (58 per 1,000), and American Indian/Alaska Native women (43 per 1,000). Between 2010 and 2016, rates rose for Asian/Pacific Islander women, remained relatively steady for non-Hispanic white women, and fell for non-Hispanic black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native women. Declines were greatest among Hispanic and American Indian women, at 12 percent each (Appendix 1). Among teens (ages 15 to 19), declines were seen in all groups, and the birth rate reached a historic low among Hispanic teens.3

Among Hispanic women in 2015 (the latest data available), Central and South American women had the highest fertility rate, at 94 births per 1,000. Mexican women also had a relatively high fertility rate (66 births per 1,000), while Puerto Rican and Cuban women had lower fertility rates (58 and 54 births per 1,000, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

• State estimates for fertility rates and number of births by selected demographic characteristics for 2016 are available from Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Driscoll, A. K., & Drake, P. (2018). Births: Final data for 2016 [Tables 1, 5, I-26]. National Vital Statistics Reports, 67(1). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_01.pdf.

• Birth and fertility rates in greater demographic detail are available, by state, from Trends in Characteristics of Births by State: Sutton, P. D. & Mathews, T. J. (2004). Trends in characteristics of births by state: United States, 1990, 1995, and 2000–2002 [Table 3]. National Vital Statistics Reports, 52(19). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr52/nvsr52_19acc.pdf.

International estimates

• International crude birth rates and total fertility rates** are available from Kaneda, T. & Bietsch, K. (2015). 2015 World Population Data Sheet. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.prb.org/pdf15/2015-world-population-data-sheet_eng.pdf.

**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 total population (including all ages and 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 ages 15 to 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. Available online at: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic-social/products/vitstats/seratab3.pdf.

Data and appendices

Data source

• Data for 1990–2016: Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Driscoll, A. K., & Drake, P. (2018). Births: Final data for 2016 [Tables 1, 5, I-26]. National Vital Statistics Reports, 67(1). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_01.pdf.

• Data for 2016 estimates, by race/Hispanic origin: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). CDC WONDER [Data tool]. Retrieved from https://wonder.cdc.gov/controller/datarequest/D66.

• Data for 1970–1990: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2002). Health, United States, 2002, with chartbook on trends in the health of Americans [Table 3]. Hyattsville, MD: Author. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus02.pdf.

• Data for 1940–1965: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. (1967). Vital statistics of the United States, 1965 [Table I-6]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsus/nat65_1.pdf.

Raw data source

National Vital Statistics System birth data.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/births.htm

Appendices

Appendix 1. Fertility Rates (per 1,000 women) by Race and Hispanic Origin, and Birth Rates by Age: Selected Years, 1940–2016

Background

Definition

The fertility rate is defined by the National Center for Health Statistics as the total number of live births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. 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 the total number of women ages 15 to 44, but rather those belonging to a specific age group.
For more detailed information, see Table 3 and the Technical Notes section of “Births: Final data for 2016” at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_01.pdf.

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Fertility and Birth Rates. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/fertility-and-birth-rates. 

Endnotes

1. Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Driscoll, A. K., & Drake, P. (2018). Births: Final data for 2016 [Tables 1, 5, I–26]. National Vital Statistics Reports, 67(1). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_01.pdf.
2. Hispanic women may be of any race. Estimates for white and black women in this report do not include Hispanic women.
3. Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Driscoll, A. K., & Drake, P. (2018). Op cit.