According to the CDC, in 2012 3,952,841 births were registered in the U.S., which was 749 fewer than in 2011. This translated into a total fertility rate of 63.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down from 63.2 births in 2011.
While a fertility rate of about 2.1 babies per women over their lifetime is required to maintain a steady population in developed countries, in the United States it currently sits at 1.88, down from 1.89 in 2011.
The country’s fertility rate first dipped below replacement level in 2010.
But while the fertility rate has declined every year for the past five years, the CDC reports that the decline slowed down between 2010 and 2012.
Meanwhile, the average age of women who become mothers for the first time rose to 25.8 years. Delayed child-bearing is one contributor to decreasing birth rates across the west.
The CDC also found that the number of babies born to non-married mothers remained steady, at 40.7 percent. However, "The nonmarital birth rate was 13 percent lower in 2012 than in 2007 and 2008, when it was at its historic peak of 51.8 per 1,000," the CDC study observes.
Some demographic forecasters have linked the decline in birth rate over the past five years to the economic recession, and predicted that with relative economic stability in place, birth rates should begin to climb again.
"The United States has seen marked declines in childbearing in the wake of the Great Recession [which began with the financial crisis of 2007-2008], but we think that this fertility decline is now over," Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence, told USA Today last fall.
However, Mary Mederios Kent of the Population Reference Bureau expressed skepticism about more optimistic projections.
"The question remains, will fertility bounce back when the economy improves, or will low fertility become the norm for Americans, as it has for Canadians and Europeans?" she asked.
"Even at its current low level," she wrote, "the U.S. rate is higher than nearly every developed country, and these countries also experienced fertility declines during the recent recession. Will couples eventually have the babies they postponed during the recession?”