This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

US Birth Rate Stops its Decline

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday released their preliminary data on births in the nation in 2012. The news was that the birth rate was essentially the same in 2012 as it had been in 2011, suggesting that the drop that we had seen since the onset of the Great Recession may have bottomed out. The CDC just reports the facts, ma'am, but the New York Times filled in some of the explanation.

The sharp decline in the country’s fertility rate during the economic downturn has come to an end, federal data show, as an improving economy encouraged Americans to resume having babies. 
The number of babies born in the United States in 2012 remained flat, the first time in five years that the number did not significantly decline, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. 
The leveling off capped a 9 percent decline in the fertility rate from 2007 to 2011, a drop that demographers say began after the recession took hold and Americans started feeling less secure about their economic circumstances.
“There’s a widespread perception that a moderately growing population is advantageous for economic growth and for a growing society,” said Hans-Peter Kohler, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. 
That is why news of the 2012 figures had demographers buzzing. “It’s exciting,” Professor Kohler said. “My prediction would be that we’ll see further stabilization and possibly growth in 2013.”
The birthrate tends to rise and fall with economic cycles. The rate fell by a fifth during the Great Depression in the 1930s, according to Mr. Haub [Carl Haub from the Population Reference Bureau], creating a crater in the population that moved up the age ladder over time.
For some reason, the NCHS prefers to feature the General Fertility Rate, which is not age-standardized, despite the fact that they note the age changes in fertility taking place--younger women are having slightly fewer children, but older women are having slightly more. This gets picked up better in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) which, in my opinion, is more readily interpretable. We can see that in this case the conclusion is the same, with US women bearing children at a rate of 1.89 children per woman in 2012, just as they had in 2011, and just as they had back in 1987!

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