Fertility and Birth Rates

Publication Date:

Oct 01, 2018

Key facts about fertility and birth rates

  • The 2017 U.S. fertility rate, at 60.3 births per 1,000 women, is the lowest since these data have been recorded.
  • In 2017, the birth rate for young women ages 15 to 24 declined for the 10th consecutive year. For the 25 to 44 age group, the birth rate also declined in 2017 after a steady increase from 2010 to 2016.
  • Fertility rates in 2017 were highest for Hispanic women, at 67.6 births per 1,000 women, although this group’s fertility rate has decreased by 27 percent over the past decade—the greatest drop among all racial/ethnic groups.

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.

Fertility rates in the United States declined sharply from the Baby Boom years of the 1950s and early 1960s until 1975 (118 and 66 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 1960 and 1975, respectively). Since 1975, fertility rates have been relatively stable, ranging from 60 to 71 births per 1,000 women. There were small peaks in 1990 and 2007, but rates have since declined to the lowest in recent history, standing at 60 per 1,000 women in 2017. The highest total number of births ever registered in the United States (4,317,119) was in 2007 (Appendix 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
.

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 (100.3 births per 1,000 in 2017), followed by those for women ages 25 to 29 (98 births per 1,000) and women ages 20 to 24 (71 births per 1,000). 2016 was the first year in which women ages 25 to 29 did not have the highest birth rate, and the rate for this age group declined further in 2017. 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 30–34, 35–39, 40–44, and 45–54 all increased from 2010 to 2017, while birth rates for younger women decreased. During this period, declines were greatest for women ages 10 to 19 (falling by 50 percent for women ages 10 to 14, and by 45 percent for women ages 15 to 19). Rates for women ages 20 to 24 also fell notably, dropping 21 percent from 2010 to 2017. Birth rates for women ages 45 and older, and for those ages 15 and younger, are below one birth per 1,000 in 2017 (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin*

In 2017, fertility rates were highest among Hispanic women (67.6 per 1,000), followed by rates for non-Hispanic black (63.1 per 1,000), Asian or Pacific Islander (59.3 per 1,000), non-Hispanic white (57.2 per 1,000), and American Indian or Alaska Native women (40.8 per 1,000). From 2010 to 2017, rates rose slightly among Asian women, fell moderately for non-Hispanic white and black women, and fell notably for Hispanic and American Indian women (by 15.7 and 16.1 percent, respectively) (Appendix 1). Among teens (ages 15 to 19), declines were seen in all groups; among Hispanic teens, the birth rate reached an historic low.**

Among Hispanic women in 2015 (the latest data available by country of origin), Central and South American women had the highest fertility rate, at 93.7 births per 1,000. Mexican women also had a relatively high fertility rate (66.3 births per 1,000), while Puerto Rican and Cuban women had lower rates (57.7 and 53.8 births per 1,000, respectively) (Appendix 1).

* Hispanic women may be of any race. Estimates for white and black women in this report do not include Hispanic women.

**Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Driscoll, A. K., & Drake, P. (2018). Op cit.

Other estimates

State and local estimates

  • State estimates for fertility rates and number of births, for 2016, by selected demographic characteristics, 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 the Population Reference Bureau (2018). International indicators: Total fertility rate. Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://www.prb.org/international/indicator/fertility/snapshot.**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 members 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 ages 15 to 49). For more details about these definitions, please see the publication listed above.

Data and appendices

Data source

  • Data for 2017: Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Driscoll, A. K., & Drake, P. (2018). Births: Final data for 2017 [Tables 1, 2]. National Vital Statistics Reports, 67(8). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_08-508.pdf.
  • 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 and 2017 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 all women ages 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 2016” at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_01.pdf.

Citation

Child Trends. (2019). Fertility and Birth Rates. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/fertility-and-birth-rates.  cit.