The CDC just released research that shows the U.S. birth rate remained at an all-time low in 2013, owing to a significant drop in teen births.
In 2013 the United States saw a little over 3.9 million births occur, down a bit less than 1 percent from the year prior, according to the annual report from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report was published online May 4th, in the journal Pediatrics.
While the drop isn't alarming given the reason, the general fertility rate also declined by about 1 percent in 2013 to 62.5 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, reaching another record low for the United States. This could indicate environmental factors, though the leading cause is not what you'd expect: the economy.
As times get tough, people stop having children.
But experts forecast a pick up in both rates as the economy improves.
"By 2016 and 2017, I think we'll start seeing a real comeback," said Dr. Aaron Caughey, of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. "While the economy is doing better, you're still going to see a lag effect of about a year, and 2014 is the first year our economy really started to feel like it's getting back to normal."
The average age of first motherhood continued to increase, rising to age 26 in 2013, compared with 25.8 for the prior year. This again points to the economy.
"You had people right out of college having a much harder time getting a first job, and so you're going to see a lot more delay among those people with their first child," Caughey said.
While rates for women in their 20s declined to record lows in 2013, they rose for women in their 30s and late 40s, again showing the pivotal role economics play in the conception decision.
"If you look at the birth rates across age, for women in their 20s, the decline over these births may not be births forgone so much as births delayed," said report co-author Brady Hamilton, a statistician with the NCHS.
Teenage birth rates also reached historic lows in 2013 of 26.5 births per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19. Rates fell for teens in almost all ethnic groups, with an overall drop of 10 percent from 2012.
"It is just an absolutely remarkable trend," Hamilton said. "We are reaching record lows [for teen births], and it's really quite amazing."
The shapr decline can be traced directly to TV shows and public ad campaigns that highlight the downsides of being a young mother, Hamilton said.
"They may be looking at the economy as a factor, but there also are a lot of policies and programs out there targeted at lessening teen births," he said.