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.
Births have been declining since 2014, but 2017 saw the greatest year-to-year drop — about 92,000 fewer than the previous year.
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.
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.
► Rates of preterm and low birth weight babies rose for the third straight year.