walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

In the "News": Declining Birth Rate in the United States

Pediatrics, the "Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics" published their Annual Summary of Vital Statistics 2010-2011.

First things first: I have Issues with pediatrics, pediatricians and the AAP. Why go there? Even I find my Issues boring. I mention it because this is an authoritative source -- I just don't necessarily like the authority in question. Altho I don't actually question their ability to count things, which is what they are doing here.

There was a lot of secondary coverage. It was unusually bad.

Every year, for quite a long time now, about 4 million babies have been born in the United States. That didn't really change. In 2011, it was 3,953,593 (from the abstract). This was a decline from the previous year, and the General Fertility Rate also declined (63.2/1000 women).

Wikipedia's Demography article sez: GFR is "the annual number of live births per 1,000 women of childbearing age (often taken to be from 15 to 49 years old, but sometimes from 15 to 44)". If you think about it, GFR drops when there are fewer live births OR more women of childbearing age. That second one is actually really important, when you look at the size of Gen Y vs. Gen X. The effect is to have a big bulge of youngish Gen Yers who, like preceding cohorts, are delaying births, but who affect the GFR.

So don't worry about GFR.

Teen births dropped to a new low, 31.3/1000. Let's all applaud the responsible teenagers and excellent parenting and supportive local governments and national advocacy organizations which worked to accomplish this.

Birth rates dropped for 20-29, which probably can be blamed on a combination of Gen Y being big, general delaying of child birth to age 30 and the recession being unusually hard on 20 somethings. Birth rates increased for 35-39 and 40-44, which is about what we all know is happening.

No change in c-section (*sigh*). Tiny, probably meaningless change in unmarried vs. married (altho that, too, could be recession related as richer people are more likely to be married and financially able to afford a kid -- make sure you get that causal arrow right. Getting married does not make you richer; being richer makes you more likely to get married).

Preterm birth dropped (yay! Possibly aided by hospital and region wide bans on schedule c-sections before 37 weeks). Low birth weight rate dropped (ditto). No change in infant mortality (*sigh*, altho it is low, so hard to know what to do at this point).

What happens when the rest of the Gen Y bulge start having A Kid (plus one, where people are able to meet the societal ideal of two children, or more, if they are able and inclined)? Well, we'll see GFR rise, and crude birth rate rise, and people will probably pat themselves on the back for how their particular program or wtf for how to increase births Worked. It'll likely happen in tandem with a long-ish recovery (since this recovery has gone so slowly, if we manage not to completely torpedo it, history suggests it might last longer than average as well -- long term pent up demand has that effect), which will itself tend to lead to increased births over time (altho a fair number of people will permanently have smaller families as a result of straitened circumstances -- and I'm no demographer so I can't figure out which of these curves has more area under it).

There is no new story here. We're getting teen births down. Women are delaying child bearing. The economy sucks. People are living longer. And Gen X was a relatively small cohort. You can look at derivative figures and turn this into a story, but it is not a story.

Neither is population wide innumeracy.

Neither is the fact that a large fraction of the population is still worried about a population "bomb", when the opposite of that has been the trend for decades.

But, you know, gotta talk about something, right?
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