See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/07/us/07births.html?_r=1&hpw for the complete article. A brief excerpt:
August 7, 2009
Birth Rate Is Said to Fall as a Result of Recession
By SAM ROBERTS
For the first time since the decade began, Americans are having fewer babies, and some experts are blaming the economy.
“It’s the recession,” said Andrew Hacker, a sociologist at Queens College of the City University of New York. “Children are the most expensive item in every family’s budget, especially given all the gear kids expect today. So it’s a good place to cut back when you’re uncertain about the future.”
In 2007, the number of births in the United States broke a 50-year-old record high, set during the baby boom. But last year, births began to decline nationwide, by nearly 2 percent, according to provisional figures released last week.
Those figures from the National Center for Health Statistics, indicate that births declined in all but 10 states in 2008 (most of them in a Northern belt where the recession was generally less severe) compared with the year before. Over all, 4,247,000 births were recorded in 2008, 68,000 fewer than the year before.
* * *
“More than 80 percent of the job losses in this recession have been borne by men,” Professor Coontz added. “There are a lot of families where a maternity leave would mean that no income at all was coming in.”
Historically, birth rates have fluctuated with the economy. Record lows were recorded during two economic crises: the Depression in the 1930s and the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s.
By the 1970s, birth rates were also affected by the rise of feminism and easier access to contraceptives and to abortion. But would they have dropped as low as they did, Mr. Haub asked, without “the added impetus of inflation, not to mention long lines at the gas station?”
“While that question can never be definitively answered,” he said, “we do know that the economic setting hardly seems conducive to starting families or having additional children. Double-digit inflation during the 1970s made two-earner, two-career families a virtual necessity for many.”
* * *
“It is certainly too soon to tell if this economic crisis will result in a sharp drop in the birth rate,” he said, “but all the measures and indicators, along with the collapse of the mainstays of the economy, are much worse than in the 1970s.