RSS
The Great Recession's baby bust: By the numbers
A steep decline in births between 2007 and 2011, especially among immigrants, has left us at record-low fertility levels. Uh-oh
 
At the peak of the baby boom in 1957, there were 122.7 births per 1,000 women. In 2011, that number was 63.2 per 1,000.
At the peak of the baby boom in 1957, there were 122.7 births per 1,000 women. In 2011, that number was 63.2 per 1,000. Courtesy Shutterstock

"The U.S. birth rate dipped in 2011 to the lowest ever recorded," and reliable records go back to 1920, report Gretchen Livingston and D'Vera Cohn at the Pew Research Center. What's going on? The most likely culprit is financial insecurity. America's birth rate has stayed relatively steady since the mid-1970s, but that's because the higher birth rates among the increasing number of immigrants canceled out the dropping rates of U.S.-born mothers. But fertility rates tend to decline during hard economic times, the Pew researchers note, and there's been "a plunge in births to immigrant women since the onset of the Great Recession." This may be good news to immigration hawks — and more generally, for a world of ever-scarcer resources — but it's not so great for the U.S. Fewer children means fewer future young taxpayers to support a booming elderly population reliant on Social Security and Medicare. Adding to the problem, "when families are small, people rely more heavily on these programs," aging expert Ted Fishman tells Bloomberg News. "A low birth rate could be a recipe for mass poverty and isolation." So, just how big was the Great Recession baby bust? A look at the numbers:

63.2
Births per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44) in 2011, the lowest number on record

122.7
Births per 1,000 women in 1957, the peak of the baby boom

8
Percent the U.S. birth rate fell between 2007 and 2011

6
Percent the birth rate fell among U.S.-born women (to 58.9 per 1,000 in 2010)

14
Percent the U.S. birth rate dropped among foreign-born women (to 87.8 per 1,000 in 2010)

23
Percent the U.S. birth rate fell among Mexican immigrant women alone

3.95 million
Total U.S. births in 2011

17
Percent of women age 15-44 who were foreign-born in 2010

23
Percent of U.S. births to foreign-born women in 2010 (930,135 births)

4.30 million
Total U.S. births in 2007

25
Percent of U.S. births to foreign-born women in 2007 (1,069,120 births)

4.15 million
Total U.S. births in 1990

16
Percent of U.S. births to foreign-born women in 1990 (645,589 births)

5
Percent of immigrant births to teenage mothers in 2010

11
Percent of births among U.S.-born women to teenage mothers in 2010

21
Percent of immigrant births to mothers over 35 in 2012

13
Percent of births among U.S.-born women to mothers over 35 in 2010

Sources: BloombergBusinessweek, Pew Research Center, The Washington Post

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week