1995 U.S. fertility rate was lower than any since the mid-1980s
U. S. women had 1% fewer births in 1995 than in 1994, and the fertility rate among all women aged 15-44 fell to its lowest level since 1986, according to preliminary data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics.l Particularly striking declines occurred in the fertility rates among black women and teenagers, and the rate of nonmarital births dropped for the first time in nearly 20 years. Also during 1995, the proportion of pregnant women who began prenatal care in the first trimester grew, the proportion who underwent cesarean deliveries decreased and the mortality rate among infants less than a year old dropped to a record low.
Some 3.9 million infants were born to U. S. women in 1995,1% fewer than in 1994. For all women aged 15-44, the fertility rate was 65.6 births per 1,000 women, down from 66.7 per 1,000 the year before and the lowest level observed for the United States since a rate of 65.4 per 1,000 in 1986. Rates for all ethnic or racial groups declined, but the drop was steepest for black women: Their rate of 71.7 births per 1,000 represented a 7% decrease from the 1994 level, while the rates for white women (64.5 per 1,000), American Indians (70.0), Asian or Pacific Islanders (65.6) and Hispanics of any race (103.7) represented declines of 1-2%. For all groups except white women, these rates were the lowest ever recorded.
Among women aged 15-19, the 1995 fertility rate was 56.9 per 1,0003% lower than the 1994 rate for this age-group and 8% lower than the rate in 1991. Again, the most marked change occurred among black women: Their fertility rate of 95.5 births per 1,000 teenagers was 9% lower than the 1994 rate and 17% lower than the rate in 1991. For other racial or ethnic groups, the teenage fertility rate fell by 3% or less between 1994 and 1995. Despite improvements in the rate of adolescent childbearing, the proportion of all births that were to women younger than 20 remained roughly stable (13%), probably because of recent increases in the number of teenagers in the population. This proportion varied considerably among racial or ethnic groups (12% for whites, 23% for blacks and 18% for Hispanics).
Fertility rates among women aged 20-29 also declined in 1995, to 110-112 per 1,000, levels 6% lower than in 1990. Among those in their 30s, on the other hand, the rate continued its climb of recent years: Women aged 30-34 gave birth at a rate of 82.5 per 1,000, and those aged 35-39 at a rate of 34.1 per 1,000; each of these rates represents about a 1% increase over the previous year’s.
Like the actual fertility rate, the total fertility rate fell modestly in 1995, remaining just above two lifetime births per woman. The total fertility rate was slightly less than two births per woman among whites and Asian or Pacific Islanders, was somewhat more than two births per woman among blacks and American Indians, and reached about three births per woman among Hispanics. The 1995 rate represented no change since 1994 for whites, a 6% decline for blacks and a 1-2% decline for the other racial and ethnic groups.
For the first time since 1940, the number of nonmarital births, the proportion of all births occurring out of wedlock and the rate of nonmarital births declined simultaneously. Unmarried women had 1.2 million births in 1995 and contributed 32% of all births, representing declines of 2-3% since 1994. The proportion of births that were to unmarried women was highest among blacks (70%) and lowest among whites (25%); the moderate proportion among Hispanics (41%) represented the largest decline since 1994 (5%). In addition, the rate of nonmarital childbearing fell by 4%, to 44.9 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44. The analysts note that about half of the decrease in nonmarital fertility is attributable to changes in reporting procedures in California; they add, however, that even if California data are excluded, 1995 saw a decline in outof-wedlock fertility.
In all, 81% of women who gave birth in 1995 had initiated prenatal care during the first three months of pregnancy; this proportion has increased steadily since 1989, when it was 76%. The proportion beginning prenatal care early was 84% among whites and 70% among both blacks and Hispanics, a 1-3% increase in each case.
Roughly 21% of women who bore children in 1995 had cesarean deliveries, compared with 23% in 1989. Black, white and Hispanic women had comparable rates of cesarean deliveries.
In 1995, 7.3% of infants weighed less than 2,500 g at birth, a proportion that was unchanged from 1994. White and Hispanic babies were the least likely to be underweight (6.2-6.3%), but the incidence of low birth weight among these groups had risen slightly since 1994. On the other hand, 13.0% of black babies born in 1995 had a low birth weight, a somewhat lower proportion than in 1994.
The infant mortality rate for 1995 was a record low 75 deaths per 1,000 live births-6.3 per 1,000 for whites and 14.9 per 1,000 among blacks. These rates represent declines of 5-6% from the 1994 rates. Overall and for each racial group, mortality declined both for babies younger than 28 days and for those between 28 days and 11 months old. According to the analysts, the infant mortality rate based on final statistics will probably be somewhat higher than the preliminary figure but still below the 1994 rate.-D. Hollander
1. H.M. rosenberg et al., “Births and Deaths: United States, 1995,” Monthly Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 45, No. 3, Supp. 2,1996.
Copyright The Alan Guttmacher Institute Jan/Feb 1997
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