Politics & Government

Washington's birth rate rises in 2008

ATLANTA – U.S. births fell in 2008, probably because of the recession, updated government figures confirm. But Washington state bucked that trend with a 1 percent increase in the birth rate between 2007 and 2008.

Nationally, the one exception to the trend was the birth rate among women in their 40s, who perhaps felt they didn’t have the luxury of waiting for better economic times.

The birth rate for women in their early 40s rose 4 percent over the previous year, reaching its highest mark since 1967. The rate for women in their late 40s also rose, slightly. But birth rates fell for teen mothers, as well as women in their 20s and 30s.

“Women are postponing births to those later ages, above 40,” said James Trussell, director of Princeton University’s Office of Population Research. Experts don’t know for certain why so many are delaying having babies, though some suspect the economy is a big factor. However, “you get to the point where the biological clock starts ticking and people realize they have to do it,” said Trussell, who was not involved in the research.

The new report on births was issued Tuesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s based on a review of more than 99 percent of birth certificates for the year 2008 – the first full year of the recession.

Overall, about 4.2 million babies were born that year, a 2 percent drop from 2007. It’s the first annual decline in births since the start of the decade.

Experts say the most likely explanations are the recession and a decline in immigration to the United States, which has been blamed on the weak job market.

Some early birth information for the first six months of 2009 indicates a continuing decline of about 3 percent in total births, CDC officials said.

The new report found that birth rates fell by 3 percent for women in their early 20s, 2 percent for women in their late 20s, and 1 percent for women in their 30s.

The trend in those numbers indicates that the older women got, the less willing they were to postpone a birth, said the new report’s lead author, Brady Hamilton .

The teen birth rate dropped 2 percent – and the rate for Hispanic teenagers was the lowest reported in two decades. The teen birth rate had been declining from 1991 through 2005, but rose from 2005 to 2007.

Even so, women in their 40s still have babies far less often than younger women. The rate was about 10 births per 1,000 women in their early 40s, and less then 1 per 1,000 for women in their late 40s. The rate for women in their late 20s was 115 per 1,000. The birth rate for teens was about 41 per 1,000.

Washington was one of 25 states the center studied. Its 3.1 percent growth in per capita income between 2006 and 2007 was the fifth largest among the 25 states.

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