The US teen birth rate hit another all-time low last year, signaling that there may not be much room for improvement left, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released Thursday.
Teen birth rates fell 3% in 2022, according to the report, a smaller decline than in previous years. Since 2007, the teen birth rate has decreased by about 8% per year. The smaller decline from last year could indicate the nation is reaching a plateau thanks to years of progress, experts say.
“If there are a lot of states where rates are already low, they bottom out. They can’t go any lower,” said the report’s lead author, Brady Hamilton, a statistician and demographer with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Hamilton noted that the data in the new report is provisional and will be updated once the final numbers for 2022 are available.
Access to both contraception and comprehensive sex education has fueled the sharp decline in teen births, which are down nearly 80% since the early 1990s.
“Declining birth rates, especially among teens and 20-somethings, is a good thing, because many of these pregnancies are unplanned,” said Karen Guzzo, director of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill. «This means that people are having babies when they want to.»
For many people, that means having children later in life.
Birth rates for women ages 35 to 39 increased 2% in 2022, the report found. For women ages 40 to 44, which have seen almost continuous increases since 1985, the birth rate rose 4%. Women 45 and older had an even larger increase in the birth rate, at 12%, though the total number of births to women of that age remained low.
Waiting to have children is a trend in all nations with low or moderate fertility rates, such as most of Europe, said Joshua Goldstein, director of the Berkeley Population Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
That’s usually a good thing, but researchers are left with questions about why it’s happening.
“It probably means that more women are having children when they want to have children. They have had opportunities to get a better education, better chances to find the right partner, more chances to excel in their career,” Goldstein said.
The CDC report included data from more than 99% of birth registries for babies born in the US in the past year. It found that, overall, the birth rate declined by a marginal amount, less than 1%, in 2022.
Aside from a small uptick in 2021, the number of babies born in the US has declined steadily since 2007. Since that year, birth rates have consistently been below the rate needed for a generation to replace themselves. .
Goldstein said she’s not concerned that not enough people in the US are becoming parents.
“It is not the size of the next generation that matters. It is the contribution that the generation can make. The fact that women can have children at the age they want and invest in those children is a positive thing,” she said.
The data does not yet reveal clues about how many people choose not to have children. Because people, both men and women, wait until later in life to have children, it will take years of tracking population data to determine whether or not people are giving up on having children altogether.
“This conversation is always framed around why women choose not to have children, but young men don’t either,” Guzzo said, noting that younger people often don’t feel ready to be parents, often due to finances.
“This is not a story about women who are overly driven by their career. This is a story about what happens when young people try to transition in society and whether or not they have the resources to build another generation of people,” she said.
The number of women of childbearing age is also declining in the US.
“Most importantly, the age structure of the American population is changing. The age structure is very different now compared to a decade or two decades ago. The number of women of reproductive age is shrinking,» said Feinian Chen, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University.
Where it differs is among immigrants. Younger immigrants moving to the US and having children is one explanation for why birth rates are so much higher among Asian and Hispanic women compared to American Indian/Alaska Native and American women. black and white, Chen said.
Total births to white American Indian/Alaska Native women decreased by 3%, and the number of babies born to black mothers decreased by 1%. Birth rates among Asian women increased 2%, and the number of babies born to Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic mothers increased 6%.
“Immigrants have been propping up our population rates for a long time,” Guzzo said.