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Bad economy cuts down births

Nothing puts a damper on prospects more than a down economy, and apparently that extends to the area of starting or expanding families.

In 2007, Americans had a record 4.3 million live births. From 2008 through last year, there has been a steady year-to-year decline in births.

The evidence may be anecdotal, but it certainly looks like it's much more than a coincidence that when the U.S. economy began to tank in late 2007 as the recession "officially" took hold in December, the U.S. birth rate tanked with it.

"I don't think there's any doubt now that it was the recession. It could not be anything else," Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization, told The Associated Press.

According to the AP article, U.S. births dropped from the high-water mark of 4.3 million in 2007 to 4.2 million in '08 and 4.1 million in '09. Last year, the number reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention barely cracked the 4 million mark.

The report also found that births to young mothers dropped significantly from 2009 to 2010, with 9 percent fewer births to teens, a 6 percent decrease to women in their early 20s and a 4 percent drop to unwed women overall. One area where the rate rose slightly was in women in their 40s.

Based on the 2010 numbers, a statistic known as the total fertility rate, which predicts how many children a woman can be expected to have at current rates, dropped to 1.9. usually that number is around 2.1. The decline for total fertility rate for Hispanic women was even more pronounced, falling from 3.0 to 2.4.

Whether the trends will reverse when the economy, which still has a lot of people nervous, improves is anyone's guess. It may be that America is looking at a general contraction of family size as would-be parents look to the future and see the impact that children would have on their lifestyles, along with looming expenses like college, especially having seen the adverse impact this recession had on the accumulated wealth of older Americans. It will be some time before that uncertainty is gone.

Who would have guessed that a recession would be such an effective form of birth control?