A Pew Research Center analysis finds that after rising to their highest levels in two decades, birth rates in the U.S. declined in 2008, most likely in response to the economic downturn. According to data provided by the 25 states that had finalized their 2008 population figures at the time of the report, their combined birth rate was 68.8 births per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2008, compared with 69.9 in 2007, a decline of 1.6%. Overall, these 25 states had a combined 2.29 million births in 2008, down from 2.33 million in 2007. (These 25 states’ total births and combined birth rate followed national trends earlier in the decade.) Strong associations were found in the magnitude of state-level birth rate change from 2007 to 2008 and the magnitude the previous year of per capita income change and housing price change. A state’s gross domestic product, first claims for unemployment benefits and housing foreclosure rate also were strongly associated with a decline in the birth rate. No correlation was found, however, between changes in state-level employment or unemployment rates and birth rates. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.