Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Census data suggest that the recession is depressing the U.S. birthrate

And it appears that people started feeling uneasy rather early on during the slowdown.

The number of babies born grew by only 0.9% in the year to July 2008, compared with a rise of 2.7% the year before.

The figures have given rise to speculation that families anticipated hard times by having fewer children.

"If prospects look worse for families, they're going to be very likely to have fewer kids," said Mark Mather of the Population Research Bureau.

The surprising part of the figures is that they reflect family planning decisions made from early 2007, when there were only a few signs of an economic slowdown in the US.

The first real sign of the financial meltdown was in August 2007 when credit markets froze up, but unemployment was still low and consumer confidence high.

The evidence is more correlative than causal, but it doesn't strain the imagination to think that economic uncertainty would make people more cautious about reproductive decisions.