Fertility rate in the US hits record low with the number of births declining for the fourth straight year

While overall birth rate in 2018 for females in the 15-44 age group was down 2% from 2017, the teen birth rate declined 7% from 2017 to 2018 to 17.4 births per 1,000 females aged 15–19


                            Fertility rate in the US hits record low with the number of births declining for the fourth straight year

The number of births in the US has come down for the fourth consecutive year, even as the fertility rate for Americans has hit a record low.

In 2018, 3,791,712 births were registered in the US, down 2% or 63,788 from 2017, according to the latest estimates released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is the fourth year that the number of births has declined following an increase in 2014. Before that year, the number of births declined steadily from 2007 through 2013, say experts.

The US fertility rate—that is, births per 1,000 women—declined in 2018 for the fourth year, reaching a record low 59.1 births for every 1,000 females in the 15-44 age group. The number is down by 2% from 2017, when it was 60.3 for every 1,000 females.

“The total fertility rate for the US in 2018 was 1,729.5 births per 1,000 women, down 2% from 2017 (1,765.5). This is the fourth year that the total fertility rate has declined following an increase in 2014. From 2007 to 2013, the rate declined steadily. The total fertility rate estimates the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes, based on age-specific birth rates in a given year,” says the research team.

Live births and general fertility rates in the US, 1970–2018. (CDC's National Vital Statistics Reports)

According to the experts, the fertility rate for Americans in 2018 remained below replacement, the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself. This is generally considered to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women. “The total fertility rate in the US has generally been below replacement since 1971,” says the report.

A state-wise analysis shows that the fertility rate for females in the 15-44 age group went down by 1% to 3% in 25 states and by 4% to 6% in 10 states and District of Columbia (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming), from 2017 to 2018. Further, it went up for two states, which include New York and New Jersey.

“It was essentially unchanged in 13 states (Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia). Rates among the states ranged from 47.2 births per 1,000 females aged 15–44 in Vermont to 73.6 in South Dakota,” says the report.

The data in the 2018 report are based on birth certificates registered in all states and the District of Columbia.

Average age of first-time moms go up

Americans are waiting longer to have children, shows the analysis. The average age of a first-time mother has increased from 26.8 in 2017 to 26.9 in 2019, which, according to the experts, is “another record high for the nation.”

While birth rates decreased for females aged 15–34, it increased for women in the 35-44 age group, from 2017 to 2018. The birth rate for females aged 10–14 was unchanged in 2018 at 0.2 births per 1,000 females. 

The number of births to teenagers has been falling to a new low each year since 2009. The birth rate for females aged 15-19 in the US in 2018 was 17.4 births per 1,000, down 7% from 2017 (18.8), which is a record low, say researchers.

The number of births to teenagers has been falling to a new low each year since 2009. (Getty Images)

 

“The rate for this group has declined 58% since 2007 (41.5), the most recent high, and 72% since the 1991 high. The number of births to teenagers aged 15–19 was 179,871 in 2018, also down 7% from 2017 (194,377),” says analysis.

Estimates show that the 2018 birth rates for teenagers aged 15–17 and 18–19 were 7.2 and 32.3 births per 1,000 females, respectively, down 9% and 8% from 2017, to record lows for both groups. The rates for these age groups have fallen 67% and 55%, respectively, since 2007, and by 81% and 66% since 1991. 

The birth rate for women aged 40–44 was 11.8 births per 1,000 women in 2018, up 2% from 2017 (11.6). Experts say that the rate for this group has risen almost continuously since 1985. 

For women aged 50 years and above, there were 959 births, up from 840 in 2017. According to the researchers, the number of births to women in this age group has generally increased since 1997 (from 144 births), when data for women aged 50 and over became available again.

Cesarean deliveries in decline

The number of cesarean deliveries in 2018 decreased from 32% in 2017 to 31.9% in 2018. In 2017, the cesarean delivery rate had increased for the first time since 2009, when it peaked at 32.9% after increasing every year since 1996 (20.7%).

By maternal age, cesarean delivery decreased during 2017–2018 for women under age 35 but remained unchanged for the older age group.

However, compared to younger mothers, cesarean delivery continued to remain higher among older women. According to the researchers, women aged 40 and over (48.0%) were more than twice as likely to deliver by cesarean as women under age 20 (19.8%).

The number of cesarean deliveries in 2018 decreased to 31.9% from 32.0% in 2017. (Getty Images)

In 2018, the primary cesarean delivery rate—which measures cesarean deliveries among women who have not had a previous cesarean delivery—was 21.7%, down from 21.9% in 2017.

The low-risk cesarean delivery rate also decreased in 2018, from 26% in 2017 to 25.9% in 2018. “The low-risk cesarean delivery rate is cesarean delivery among nulliparous (first birth), term (37 or more completed weeks based on the obstetric estimate), singleton (one fetus), cephalic (head first) births,” says the report.

The analysis also shows that vaginal births among women, who have had a previous cesarean delivery, increased. “In 2018, 13.3% of women with a previous cesarean delivered vaginally, up 4% from 12.8% in 2017,” says the team.

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