Birth rates for teens, women in their 20s hit record lows

Birth rates for teens, women in their 20s hit record lows
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U.S. birth rates hit their lowest point in 32 years in 2018, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This included record lows for women in their teens and in their 20s. 

The provisional report, based on over 99 percent of U.S. birth records, indicates there were 3.788 million births in the U.S. last year, the lowest total since 1986 and the fourth consecutive year the number of births has declined.

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Births to teenagers fell 8 percent, to 179,607.

Women in their late 30s and in their early 40s were the only groups with slightly higher birth rates in 2018, according to the report. The fertility rate, 1.7  births per woman, was also down 2 percent, indicating the current generation is not having enough babies to replace itself.

The continued decline is unusual under a strong economy, and it remains unclear whether the decline means women are delaying motherhood or eschewing it completely. A return to prerecession levels would have meant 5.7 million babies were born in the past decade, Kenneth M. Johnson of the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy told The Associated Press.

“I keep expecting to see the birth rates go up and then they don’t,” said Johnson, who was not involved in compiling the report.

The birthrate for women between the ages of 15 and 44 hit an all-time low at 59 births per 1,000 women. The premature birth rate, defined by the CDC as delivery earlier than 37 weeks, increased for the fourth consecutive year to just over 10 percent from 9.9 percent. Births declined for every racial group except native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, the birth rates for which remained stable.

Karen Benjamin Guzzo of Bowling Green State University in Ohio told the AP that in many cases younger Americans want to have children but don’t feel stable enough, adding that stronger parental leave and preschool policies, as well as child care subsidies, could push back against the trend.