U.S. Birth Rate Down for 4th Consecutive Year

The decline in 2011 was just 1 percent — not as sharp a fall-off as the 2 to 3 percent drop seen in other recent years.

"It may be that the effect of the recession is slowly coming to an end," said Carl Haub, a senior demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.

Most striking in the new report were steep declines in Hispanic birth rates and a new low in teen births. Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the flagging economy, experts say, and teen birth rates have been falling for 20 years.

Falling births is a relatively new phenomenon in this country. Births had been on the rise since the late 1990s and hit an all-time high of more than 4.3 million in 2007.

But fewer than 4 million births were counted last year — the lowest number since 1998.

Image: Mother and baby, via Shutterstock.

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