Birth rates in America are dropping

Recession has people rethinking the idea of bringing more children into the world

U.S. birth rate on the decline. From Google Images

Birthrates have fallen in the United States by 10% since hitting their peak in 2007.

In 2007, there were 4.3 million births in the U.S., but that number has dropped to 4 million births last year, according to estimates by the National Center for Health Statistics. The birth rate, which measures births per 1,000 people, has dropped 10% from 2007 to 2010.

Historically, birth rates tend to go down during economic downturns. During the Great Depression, the birth rate was down by 17%.

The cost of raising children has steadily gone up since 1960 (when the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping track). Between clothes, food, housing, childcare, edcation, and other expenses, a middle-income family spends an average of $226,920 to raise a child born in 2010 to age 18 (not including the cost of college), according to the USDA.

According to Steven Martin, a senior research associate for the Institute of Human Development and Social Change at New York University, the costs, coupled with the current economic situation, has caused many women to postpone or even cancel their plans to have children. A recent survey by (an online parenting resource) indicates that 43%, of women said they would wait to start or expand their family until they felt financially stable.

Linda Murray, BabyCenter’s editor in chief, said, “Anyone who has wanted to have a child is concerned about whether they can afford it but the economy has really exacerbated that.” 

According to data from the Pew Research Center, states with the biggest decline in income per capita income during the recession (including Florida, Arizona and Michigan) also half the fewest number of births in recent years. On the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota and Hawaii showed higher birth rates and higher income growth in that time.

A parent can spend $1,500 on diapers alone in the first year of a child’s life, said Katherine Snider, executive director of Baby Buggy (a nonprofit organization aimed at providing necessities to families in need). Snider said, “It’s scary to think of the economics of it.”

The steep cost of raising a child has some women putting off starting a family and others choosing to have fewer children. Of the 1,305 women surveyed by BabyCenter, two thirds said that money will influence how many children they have. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that since 2007, the rate of women of childbearing age who had three or more children fell 5%.