Birth rate in U.S. falls to lowest level in 32 years, CDC says

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(NBC News) -- The number of babies born in the U.S. in 2018 fell to the lowest level in 32 years, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The numbers are part of a decadeslong trend toward fewer and fewer babies being born each year — which means we’re getting further away from the possibility of having enough children to replace ourselves, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The major finding is that the fertility rates are reaching record lows,” said the report’s lead author, Brady Hamilton, a statistician and demographer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “There have been record lows in the teenage birth rate, which fell 7 percent compared to 2017.”

Hamilton and his colleagues found that the total number of births in 2018, at 3,788,235, was down 2 percent from 2017. The general fertility rate for 2018 was 59.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, another record low for the U.S.

For perspective, it’s lower than in the years after the Great Depression. In 1936, for example, the general fertility rate was 75.6.

More telling, perhaps, is the drop in the “total fertility rate,” which also fell 2 percent compared to 2017 figures, to 1,728 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

For the nation’s population to reproduce itself at current numbers and remain stable, the total fertility rate would need to be at least 2,100 births per 1,000 women. So, essentially, for the population to remain stable, each woman needs to have at least two babies. At 2,000 there would be enough children to replace fathers and mothers. The extra 100 is to account for deaths.

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