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    US births hit a 30-year low, despite good economy

    NEW YORK — US birth rates declined last year for women in their teens, 20s and — surprisingly — 30s, leading to the fewest babies in 30 years, according to a government report released Thursday.

    Specialists said several factors may be combining to drive the declines, including shifting attitudes about motherhood and changing immigration patterns.

    The provisional report, based on a review of more than 99 percent of the birth certificates filed nationwide, counted 3.853 million births last year. That’s the lowest tally since 1987.

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    Births have been declining since 2014, but 2017 saw the greatest year-to-year drop — about 92,000 fewer than the previous year.

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    That was surprising, because baby booms often parallel economic booms, and last year was a period of low unemployment and a growing economy.

    But other factors are likely at play, analysts said.

    One may be shifting attitudes about motherhood among millennials, who are in their prime child-bearing years right now. They may be more inclined to put off child-bearing or have fewer children, researchers said.

    Another may be changes in the immigrant population, who generate nearly a quarter of the babies born in the United States each year. For example, Asians are making up a larger proportion of immigrants, and they have typically had fewer children than other immigrant groups.

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    Also, use of IUDs and other long-acting forms of contraception has been increasing.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report also found:

    The rate of births to women ages 15 to 44, known as the general fertility rate, sank to a record low of about 60 per 1,000.

    Women in their early 40s were the only group with higher birth rates in 2017, up 2 percent from the year before. The rate has been rising since the early 1980s.

    The caesarean section rate rose by a tiny amount after having decreased four years.

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    Rates of preterm and low birth weight babies rose for the third straight year.