February 1, 2008


From the Housing Market to the Maternity Ward (JOHN LELAND, 2/01/08, NY Times)

The 4,265,996 babies born in 2006, the most since 1961, reflect increases in birth rates for women in all parts of the country and nearly every demographic group studied — including teenagers, whose rate had dropped every year since 1991. The only decline was among girls under 15.

But that does not mean the new arrivals look like their parents’ generation. For starters, they are much more likely to be Hispanic, to live in a red state and to be part of an evangelical Christian family.

Hispanic women in 2006 gave birth at a rate corresponding to lifetime averages of 2.96 children per woman, compared with 2.11 for non-Hispanic black women and 1.86 for non-Hispanic whites. The fertility rates for Hispanic immigrants were higher than those in many of their countries of origin, including Mexico, where the rate is 2.4, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

General birth rates were highest in Republican strongholds like Utah (94.1 births per 1,000 women), Arizona (81.6), Idaho (80.9) and Texas (78.8). They were lowest in states won by John Kerry in 2004, including Vermont (52.2), New Hampshire (53.4), Maine (54.5), Rhode Island (54.6) and Massachusetts (57). The rate in New York was 61.1, well below the national average of 68.5. The rate in New Jersey was 64.4; in Connecticut, 58.8.

The report does not include information on religion or socioeconomic status, but researchers have long linked religious observance and affiliation with higher rates of fertility, even attributing the growth of evangelical churches and decline of mainline Protestant churches to differences in fertility rates.

In a 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of evangelicals said they had children, compared with 73 percent of nonevangelical Protestants and 62 percent of those who described themselves as secular. For Catholics and Protestants, the more often they attended services, the more likely they were to have children.

Ms. Ventura of the health statistics center said it was unusual that 2006 birth rates rose for both teenagers and older women. In the past, a strong economy “contributed to a decline in the teenage birth rate, because they saw they could get good jobs, so they put off childbirth,” she said. “For older people, a good economy makes them say, ‘We can afford to have another child.’ ”

With their low birth rates, Europe, Japan, China and parts of the Middle East face the burden of shrinking productive work forces and aging populations (a vicious cycle: gloomy economic prospects lead to low birth rates, which lead to gloomy economic prospects). For the United States, then, the boomlet is a healthy sign, said Michael Rendall, director of the Population Research Center at the RAND Corporation, a research group. “It’s not a huge amount, but it’s a sign in a positive direction. Timing is very important.”

Mr. Rendall considered the cohort born in 1960, at the height of the baby boom. In 2040, when that group turns 80, the people born in 2006 will be in their prime earning years, he said. “The baby boom peak will be benefiting from 34-year-olds born in 2006. They’ll be in the labor force just in time.”

Those Evangelical Christian who the nativists hate so much are going to buy houses too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 1, 2008 8:22 AM

You folks in New England better get busy. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where there's plenty of housing, but no woman wants to give birth to fill it.

Posted by: Brad S at February 1, 2008 9:58 AM

One of them better hurry up and buy my house so I can move into my new one and not pay two mortgages.

Posted by: Brandon at February 1, 2008 10:39 AM