Fewer than four million births occurred in the U.S. in 2011, which was a 1% decrease from 2010, the report found. Births had been declining by about 2% or 3% annually the past few years. Prior to that, births had been increasing annually since the late 1990s.
Many experts have attributed the declines of recent years to the weak economy. The slower rate of decline last year compared with the previous few years might suggest "that the effect of the recession is slowly coming to an end," said Carl Haub, a senior demographer with the Population Reference Bureau.
The birth rate continued to fall sharply among Hispanics, whom experts say have been disproportionately affected by the economy. The report found that the birth rate among Hispanics dropped by 6%, compared with a 2% decrease for black women and a small increase for Asian-American and Pacific Islander women. The rate for white women stayed the same.
The report also found that the number of teen births in 2011 -- about 330,000 -- was the lowest in a single year since 1946. There were about 31 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, marking a decrease of 8% from 2010. The teen birth rate has fallen annually since 1991 (Stobbe, AP/U-T San Diego, 10/2).