U.S. birth rate the lowest since 1920

WASHINGTON — The U.S. birth rate plunged last year to a record low, with the decline being led by immigrant women hit hard by the recession, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

The overall birth rate declined by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010, with a decrease of 6 percent among U.S.-born women and 14 percent among foreign-born women. The decline for Mexican immigrant women was more extreme, at 23 percent. The overall birth rate is now at its lowest since 1920, the earliest year with reliable records.

The decline could have far-reaching implications for U.S. economic and social policy. A continuing decline would challenge long-held assumptions that births to immigrants will help maintain the U.S. population and provide the taxpaying work force needed to support the aging baby boomer generation.

The U.S. birth rate — 63.2 births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age — has fallen to just over half of what it was at its peak in 1957. The rate among foreign-born women also had been declining in recent decades, according to the report, though more slowly.

But after 2007, as the worst recession in decades dried up jobs and economic prospects across the nation, the birth rate for immigrant women abruptly plunged.

The fall is not because there are fewer immigrant women of childbearing age, but because of a change in their behavior, said D’Vera Cohn, an author of the report, adding that “the economic downturn seems to play a pretty large role in the drop in the fertility rate.”

While the declining U.S. birth rate has not yet created the stark imbalances in graying countries such as Japan or Italy, it should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, said Roberto Suro, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California.

“We’ve been assuming that when the baby boomer population gets most expensive, that there are going to be immigrants and their children who are going to be paying into programs for the elderly, but in the wake of what’s happened in the last five years, we have to re-examine those assumptions,” he said. “When you think of things like the solvency of Social Security, for example … relatively small increases in the dependency ratio can have a huge effect.”

The falling birth rate mirrors what has happened during other recessions. A Pew study last year found that a decline in U.S. fertility rates was closely linked to hard times, particularly among Hispanics.

“The economy can have an impact on these long-term trends, and even the immigrants that we have been counting on to boost our population growth can dip in a poor economy,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, noting that Hispanic women, who led the decline, occupy one of the country’s most economically vulnerable groups.

More in Local News

Bicycle tour raises money for dialysis patients

Volunteers also shared health information and put together care packages for homeless women.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Expect river levels to keep rising, though sun is on the way

Some could crest above minor and moderate flood levels.

Arrests made in robbery-turned fatal Everett shooting

A man, 24, and woman, 18, were found at a hotel in Seattle.

Boeing reaches out to schools

Company employees helped Everett students at recent reading and Manufacturing Day events.

5-vehicle collision sends school bus into ditch; no injuries

No students were hurt when a school bus crashed into… Continue reading

Fire crew returns early from wildfires in Northern California

Four Everett firefighters returned from battling California wildfires late Thursday… Continue reading

Theft lands former insurance salesman 50 days in jail

A former insurance salesman is expected to report to jail… Continue reading

Pair of intrepid musicians climb N. Cascades summits to play

Rose Freeman and Anastasia Allison pack their instruments up mountains for high-altitude recitals.

Most Read