NC Birth Trends in 5 Graphs

1) Total births are not rebounding to 2007 levels.

North Carolina births peaked in 2007, with nearly 131,000 babies born to North Carolina residents. Since then, total births have steadily declined. In 2013, 119,000 babies were born, a decline of 9% from the 2007 peak.

Births to NC Residents_1970_20132) NC fertility rates are at their lowest level since 1996.

The general fertility rate, measured as the number of live births per 1,000 women of childbearing age (women age 15-44) has declined substantially from its Baby Boom highs in both North Carolina and the nation. The fertility rate has declined even more in the recent post-recession years.

Fertility Rates_NC v US_1970_2013

Nationwide, 2013 marked an all-time low for the U.S. fertility rate, with 62.5 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. In North Carolina, the fertility rate was slightly lower, 60.3 births per 1,000 women, but it was not at an all-time low. Although North Carolina’s fertility rate tends to follow the overall U.S. pattern, the state fertility rate fell significantly below the national rate in the 1980s. North Carolina’s all-time low fertility rate occurred in 1983 with 57.4 births per 1,000 women.

3) Trends in fertility rates differ dramatically by age.

Fertility rates among women 30 and older increased from 31.8 to 46.3 births per 1,000 women age 30-44 between 1990 and 2007, an increase of 46%. Although the recession caused a slight decrease in the fertility rate of women 30 and older, the 2013 data show that the fertility rate of North Carolina women 30+ has returned to its pre-recession high.

Fertility Rates by Age_1990_2013

In contrast, the Great Recession led to substantial declines in the fertility rates of women under 30. Between 1990 and 2007, fertility rates for young women in North Carolina declined slightly, decreasing 5% from 98.7 births per 1,000 women to 94.1. After the onset of the recession, these rates plummeted. Fertility rates among North Carolina women under 30 dropped 21% between 2007 and 2013 to 74.5 births per 1,000 women.

4) There has been a substantial increase in the share of births to women over 30.

In 1980, less than one of every six births in the state was to a woman 30 or older. The steadily rising fertility rates among women over 30, combined with the more recent and significant post-recession decline in fertility among younger women, has caused the share of births to older women to more than double. In 2013, more than one in every three births was to a woman 30 or older.

Births to Women 30 and Older_1980_2013

5) The Great Recession reduced North Carolina births by nearly 71,000 between 2008 and 2013.

Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy, recently estimated that the Great Recession reduced U.S. births by nearly 2.3 million between 2008 and 2013. If the pre-recession fertility levels in North Carolina had been sustained, North Carolina would have had 70,500 more births between 2008 and 2013 than actually occurred.

NC Foregone Births 2008_2013

Data Sources

Data for 1970-2013 North Carolina Resident Live Births was retrieved from Log Into North Carolina. Detailed births data by age was obtained through direct communication with the State Center for Health Statistics (SCHS). Estimates of women ages 15-29 and 30-44 were retrieved from the NC SCHS online query system for 1990-2013. For 1970-1989, Carolina Demography calculated totals from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program single-year of age population estimates, 1969-2012, for North Carolina.

U.S. fertility rates were retrieved from reports from the National Center for Health Statistics (1970-1979, 1980-2012, 2013).

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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