California birthrate trending down

Birthrates in California began a decline in 2008, a trend mirrored in other states and one that experts say is a response to the recession.

As incomes fell and the housing market cooled off, birthrates likewise began to tick downward, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Wednesday.

In California, the number of babies born fell to 551,000 in 2008 from 566,000 the previous year.

It equated to a 2.8% dip in the birthrate, a figure derived from the number of babies born per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

Only Arizona and Mississippi had greater declines.

In the same time period, California’s per capita income decreased from $44,880 to $43,641, according to the study.

In the previous year, the state’s housing prices decreased by more than 2%, the largest drop in the country, researchers said.

Researchers said there was a clear link between birthrates and the down economy.

“We wanted to see whether there was some kind of link for the most recent recession,” said D’Vera Cohn, the study’s senior writer.

“We looked at the decision to get pregnant and took a look at what is going on in the economy to affect that decision.”

Indeed, Arizona’s birthrate, which saw the greatest decline in the nation in 2008, reflected the weakened economic picture with a drop in income and a cooling-off in the housing markets that began in 2006.

Researchers cited an October 2009 Pew survey finding that 14% of Americans ages 18 to 34, and 8% of those ages 35 to 44, said they had postponed having a child because of the recession.

In the past, birthrates have roughly reflected the nation’s economic booms and busts, Cohn said.

Cohn pointed to a slight dip in nationwide birthrates in the economic downturn between 2001 and 2002, which was followed by growing birthrates between 2003 and 2007, when the economy picked up.

The number of births nationwide in 2007 -- 4.3 million -- was the highest ever recorded in the U.S., according to the study.

But in 2008, 4.2 million babies were born; and the decline continued in the first six months of 2009, according to the study.

Cohn said declining birthrates seen during recessions are usually temporary. But she said there has been a downward trend that started when the post-World War II baby boom ended.

Beyond temporary economic reasons, the decline is seen as a reflection of more available birth control and changing attitudes toward women working outside the home.

The analysis was based on data from 25 states from which final 2008 birth numbers are available.

An anomaly in the study was Mississippi, which had the second- greatest birthrate decrease in the coun- try in 2008, despite increasing incomes and housing prices.