Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another Baby Boom?

In 2007, a record 4,317,000 babies were born in the United States. It took exactly 50 years to break the old record of 4,308,000 established in 1957. So the answer is no, we are not in the midst of another baby boom. Here's why.

For one thing, the U.S. population has almost doubled since 1957, climbing from 152 million to 302 million--yet only now have American women managed to produce slightly more babies than they did half a century ago. The average woman of 1957 could expect to have 3.77 children in her lifetime. Today, the average woman will have only 2.12.

The fertility rate of 1957 was 122.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. Today the fertility rate is just 69.5. Granted, today's figure is higher than the all-time low of 63.6, which we hit in 1997, but the increase is due more to the changing demographic composition of American women than it is to a new baby boom.

Hispanics account for a growing proportion of women aged 15 to 44, and Hispanic fertility is far above average. In 2007, the Hispanic fertility rate was 102.1--not far below the average fertility rate of 1957. Among non-Hispanic whites, in contrast, the 2007 fertility rate was just 60.1. Hispanics account for one in four births in the United States today. Of the 52,000 additional babies that put us over the top in 2007, 44 percent were Hispanic, 27 percent were Asian, 19 percent were black, and 7 percent were non-Hispanic white.

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