U.S. birthrate falls to lowest level ever recorded

The U.S. birthrate has reached a record low, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.
(Lucy Nicholson-Pool/Getty Images)

The U.S. birthrate fell to a record low last year, coming in at its lowest level since statistics began being collected in 1920. The drop was largely driven by a reduction in births by immigrant women, who may have decided to have fewer children due to the tough economy, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Social Trends division.

According to Pew, the birthrate was 63.2 babies per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2011. That number is about half what the birth rate was during the Baby Boom, when the rate was 122.7 per 1,000 women.

While the 2011 rate is based on a preliminary set of statistics that will be finalized sometime next year, the early numbers continue a trend that has been playing out for some time. Between 2007 and 2010, the birth rate also fell, from 69.3 per 1,000 women to 64 per 1,000.


The Pew analysis focuses in part on the differences among demographic groups, and the drop in births by foreign-born women was particularly striking. While the birth rate for U.S.-born women only dropped from 62.4 to 58.9 births per 1,000 women from 2007 to 2010, the foreign-born rate dropped from 102 to 87.8, a decline of 14%. The birthrate for Mexican women in the United States fell a whopping 23%.

The drop in births is attributable to the recent recession, according to another report issued by Pew. Birthrates fell the most in states with the most economic distress, like Nevada, while rising somewhat in states that fared relatively well, like North Dakota. And the recession has hit Latinos particularly hard, potentially explaining their outsized reductions in birthrates.

Nevertheless, foreign-born women continue to contribute a disproportionately high percentage of American births, birthing 23% of the nation’s babies while such women make up only about 17% of the country’s female population. And according to the Pew analysis, the children of immigrants who have arrived since 2005 will make up 82% of the U.S.'s population growth by 2050.

Return to the Booster Shots blog.