Baby boomlet

U.S. birthrate up, and not only among teens and Nicole Richie.


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Lynn Harris
January 16, 2008 8:43PM (UTC)

Turns out it's not just the kids. Or the celebrities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports (PDF) that the birthrate in the U.S. -- in contrast to other industrialized nations -- is up, up, up. According to the Associated Press, the 4.3 million births in 2006 constituted the largest number of children born in 45 years. That's a 3 percent jump in one year, and a pretty big bounce-back from a record low (PDF) in 2002. Demographers say it's too soon for this "boomlet" to be called a "trend," but it's at least a "noticeable blip." Not to mention a "magic number": With the fertility rate now at 2.1 children per mother, we in the U.S. -- unlike Japan and Italy, and with or without the Duggars -- are on track to replace ourselves.

What's going on? On the glass-half-full side, we have Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University. "Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, 'Let's have another kid,'" she told the AP.

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There's also the Hispanic factor. The fertility rate among Hispanics in the U.S. is about 40 percent higher than that of the U.S. overall; the rate among Mexican-born women here is 3.2. The AP quotes, rather out of nowhere -- or, specifically, out of the American Immigration Control Foundation -- only one person who is not a demographer, academic or social scientist type, one John Vinson, who charges (as the AP characterizes it) that those Hispanics who are here illegally are here in order to have children who'll be American citizens. Not saying there's no "financial incentive,"* as Vinson calls it, to do so; just saying it's peculiar that this fellow seems to count, among the others, as an expert.

Still other experts point to a grimmer group of causes: "a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty." Indeed, research by the Guttmacher Institute shows that poor women are much likelier than others to experience both unintended pregnancy and unintended birth. The CDC data also show that women in the Midwest, South and some Central states -- where clinics are fewest and farthest between -- tend to have more children. As we approach the 35th anniversary of the constitutional right to abortion, let's remember that many women are not like Melody Rose of RH Reality Check: "It is not Roe that protects my right in 2007. My ability to choose is protected by my class, my age, and my geographical location."

*Speaking of which: "Can Economic Incentives Get You Pregnant?"


Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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