Collaboration in Civic Spheres

U.S. Birth Rate Hits New Low In ‘09, Cesareans Peak

by Lindsay Crocker February 3rd, 2011

SUMMARY: The U.S. crude birth rate – live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 – reached an historic low of 13.5 in 2009. The birth rate for all age groups decreased in 2009 except for women aged 40-44 years. The birth rate for U.S. teenagers fell to historic lows. The birth rate for unmarried women declined by almost 4 percent, but children born to unmarried women now represent a higher percentage of total births than in 2008. The rate of cesarean deliveries rose to 32.9 percent in 2009, setting a record high in the U.S. Rates of preterm births and low birthweight showed a slight decline in 2009 after their steep rise from the 1980s to 2006.

BACKGROUND: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) collects data each year regarding birth rates and selected maternal and infant health characteristics. This includes data on age, race, origin, and marital status as well as information regarding rates of preterm deliveries, low birth rate, and cesarean deliveries. These annual reports highlight trends in these categories by comparing the current data to data from previous years. The data in this report is based on 99.95 percent of registered vital records from 2009.

KEY LINK: “Births: Preliminary Data For 2009,”National Vital Statistics Report, National Center For Health Statistics, U.S. Centers For Disease Control, 12/21/10


  • The Crude Birth Rate (live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years) declined by four percent since 2008 to 13.5 per 1,000 in 2009. It is the lowest birth rate ever recorded in the history of the U.S.
  • The General Fertility Rate (GFR) for women between the ages of 15 and 44 declined by three percent since 2008. This is a reverse in a recent trend of increasing GFR from 2006 to 2008.
  • The 2009 U.S. teenage birth rate for teenagers aged 15-19 years decreased by six percent since 2008. This marked the lowest teenage birth rate in the U.S. since 1940.
  • In 2009 the birth rate for women aged 20-24 years fell seven percent and the number of births per woman also decreased, down by four percent from 2008 levels.
  • The rate for women aged 25-29 fell four percent when compared to 2008 birth rates.
  • The birth rate for women aged 30-34 years dropped by two percent, and rates for women aged 35-39 years also dropped, down 1% from 2008 rates.
  • The birth rate for women aged 40-44 rose three percent. This is the only age group with a higher birth rate when compared to 2008 rates. This is also the highest birth rate for this age group recorded in the U.S. since 1967.
  • The birth rate for women aged 45-49 years was unchanged (i.e. not statistically different).
  • The birth rate for unmarried women declined by almost four percent. This is the first decline in this category on record since 2002. However, the proportion of all births to unmarried women increased. This means that unmarried women are having proportionally more children when compared to married women than they were in 2008.
  • The cesarean delivery rate was 32.9 percent in 2009. This is an increase of 2% from 2008. It is the highest rate in U.S. history.
  • The preterm birth rate showed a small decline from 2008 levels. This is the third straight year of decline after rates of preterm infants rose by more than one-third from 1981 to 2006.
  • The low birthweight rate (LBW) also showed a small decline in 2009, continuing a trend of slight decline since 2006. This small drop comes after LBW increased more than 20 percent between the mid 1980s and 2006.

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