Birth rate drops

    The recession is taking a toll on babies — or, at least, on the number of babies people are having. Preliminary data from the Center for Health Statistics show a slight decline in the birth rate in 2008.

    The recession is taking a toll on babies — or, at least, on the number of babies people are having. Preliminary data from the Center for Health Statistics show a slight decline in the birth rate in 2008.
    (Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanabrady/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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    2008 marked the first year this decade that the birth rate declined.

    Demographers say it reflects a simple cost-benefit analysis among would-be parents: in an unstable economy, hold off on more kids. Gordon De Jong is a professor of sociology and demography at Penn State.

    De Jong: The 2008 preliminaries are largely births conceived in 2007. So that actually the full impact of the economic downturn will not be in 2008, it will be 2009 and 2010.

    In the northeast, and especially in Pennsylvania, the birth rate is already below the national average.

    James Hughes is the dean of planning and public policy at Rutgers. He says too few babies can hurt the economy.

    Hughes:
    We need new taxpayers to support the baby boom in retirement. So if we’re not producing enough new workers, we’re not going to be having the required number of individuals to support an aging population.

    Hughes says the US is not at risk of having too few people in the next generation. Immigration makes up for sluggish birth rates, and Hughes says the US remains one of the primary immigration destinations.

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