Babies born in U.S. declined along with economy: study

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** TO GO WITH STORY BY STEPHEN GRAHAM ** New born Inka Angelina Gotschlich is seen in her bed at the Auguste-Victoria-Clinic in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. Facing an alarming demographic trend, the German government has shaken up its financial assistance to parents in a bid to make it easier for working women to have children and revive a birth rate of 1.4 per woman _ one of the lowest in Europe. It’s an attempt to match incentives in other countries such as France and Sweden, which show higher birthrates. A recent government study forecast that Germany’s population will drop by as much as 16 percent by 2050, from the current 82.4 million to as little as 69 million. That could hurt the economy by sapping the workforce _ and undermine the state pension system. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

When the economy tanks, women are less likely to have children.

That’s a conclusion of a new Pew Research Center study that found that states with the greatest economic declines in 2007 and 2008 – calculated by per capita income, unemployment rates and several other indicators – experienced the greatest birth declines in 2008 and 2009.

And women’s health care organizations say a trifling economy doesn’t only affect babies, it also puts a strain on related services. Fertility clinics are losing patients, and family planning clinics are struggling to keep up with a surge in demand for their services.

Data from the study shows that the number of births in the U.S. dropped by more than 300,000 over a four-year period, from about 4.3 million in 2007 to about 4 million in 2010.

Birth rates dropped from 69.6 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44 in 2007 to 64.7 per 1,000 last year.

The Pew study found that minorities most affected by economic strife had the highest fertility declines.

Hispanic births dropped 5.9 percent between 2008 and 2009, while black births dropped by 2.4 percent and white births by 1.6 percent. Cavanaugh said there are several reasons why more women are seeking services, including new pregnancy prevention education in local schools and changes to Medicare, but she said the economy is a key factor.

After the economic downturn, many women lost their jobs and the health care coverage that often comes with it, and they turned to the organization for low-cost or no-cost birth control.

In addition to a hike in women seeking birth control, the health facility also saw a decline in the number of clients seeking abortions – a statistic that suggests women are postponing or abstaining from having children, she said.

Christy Tippet, a registered nurse and spokeswoman for the Center for Fertility and Gynecology in Wexford, Pa., said the economy is hurting business at fertility clinics across the country.

“People seeking treatment has dropped dramatically in the past five years,” she said.

Scripps Howard News Service

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