Questions for Joyce A. Martin, M.P.H., Demographer, Statistician, and Lead Author on “Births in the United States, 2016.”
Q: How have birth rates changed in 2016 among different age groups?
JM: In general, births rates for women aged under 30 declined in 2016, whereas rates for women 30 and over rose. By age group, however, the change in rates changed differed considerably. The birth rates for teens aged 15-19 declined 9% from 2015 to 2016, whereas the rates declined 4% for women aged 20-24 and 2% for women aged 25-29. For women aged 30 and over, rate rose 1% for women aged 30-34, 2% for women aged 35-39, and 4% for women aged 40-44. As a result of the rise in the birth rate for older women, women aged 30–34 have for the first time in 2016 a higher birth rate than women aged 25–29.
Q: What did your report find on the trends for triplet and higher order multiple births?
JM: The rate of triplet and higher order multiple births was 101.4 per 100,000 total births in 2016, down 48% from the peak in 1998.
Q: Was there anything in the 2016 birth data that surprised you?
JM: The continued decline in birth rates among women under age 30 and the continued increase in the preterm birth rate which rose for the second straight year to 9.85% in 2016. This rate had been on the decline from 2007 to 2014.
Q: What is the take home message from this report?
JM: The report documents a continuation of recent trends in several key birth measures in the United States. Most notably, continued declines in childbearing among women under 30 years of age, continued declines in the cesarean delivery rate and increases in the preterm birth rate.
Q: When do you expect the Final 2016 Births report will be released?
JM: We expect the report to be released late this year or in early 2018.
Quarterly Provisional Estimates for Selected Birth Indicators, 2015—Quarter 1, 2017 Quarterly Provisional Estimates of Infant Mortality, 2014—Quarter 3, 2016 Vital Statistics Rapid Release from the National Vital Statistics SystemAugust 8, 2017
Questions for Lauren Rossen, Ph.D., Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Quarterly Provisional Estimates for Selected Birth Indicators”and “Quarterly Provisional Estimates of Infant Mortality”
Q: What findings in your new data analyses on births and infant mortality most surprised you and why?
LR: These latest quarterly provisional estimates suggest that the steady decline in teen birth rates that we have seen over the past several years is continuing into 2017, which is good news. What is of concern is the recent uptick in preterm birth rates, a trend that emerged in 2015 and that has unfortunately continued into 2016 and early 2017.
Q: What is the difference between the Rapid Release provisional estimates on births released today and the report from your office released last month, “Births: Provisional Data for 2016”? And how are these two provisional data analyses different from your office’s “preliminary data” released in the recent past?
LR: The most recent Quarterly Provisional Estimates provide an update to some of the data released in the recent report, Births: Provisional Data for 2016. That report is similar to previous “preliminary birth data” reports, but is redesigned and released under our Vital Statistics Rapid Release (VSRR) program. We hope that the VSRR program can be a one-stop-shop for our provisional vital statistics data. The Quarterly Provisional Estimates describe very recent trends in key indicators of maternal and infant health from the birth and mortality data the report, Births: Provisional Data for 2016, provides some critical context for understanding these recent trends. report also describes some additional demographic and reproductive health indicators that aren’t yet available in the Quarterly Provisional Estimates, such as birth rates by race and Hispanic origin, as well as the timing of prenatal care.
Q: What in your data analyses can be attributed to no change in infant mortality in the last few quarters?
LR: is another surprising and concerning finding, because infant mortality rates have generally been declining over the past decade, at least through 2014. These declines seem to have leveled off more recently, according to our provisional estimates. We can’t speak to why infant mortality rates might no longer be declining, but we are planning future research to help us better understand this troubling trend.
Q: What differences did you see among various age groups of mothers?
LR: There is a great deal of detail in the recent report, Births: Provisional Data for 2016, discussing how age-specific birth rates have changed recently. Generally, both that report and our recent Quarterly Provisional Estimates show that maternal age is increasing. Birth rates among younger women (under 30) are going down, while those among women 35 and up are increasing.
Q: What are seasonal fluctuations in the number of infant deaths and births, and what do you mean by accounting for seasonality as you described in your report’s preface?
LR: People may not think that there are seasonal patterns to births, but it turns out that there are more babies born in the third quarter of the year, from July-September, than during other parts of the year. There are seasonal patterns in other indicators as well. For example, preterm birth rates dip slightly in the third quarter compared with other quarters, while infant mortality rates tend to be a bit higher in the beginning of the year than toward the end of the year. So to ensure that any differences we find aren’t influenced by seasonal fluctuations, we only compare the most recent quarter with the same quarter from the previous year. We also present 12 month-ending estimates, which include all seasons of the year, and thus aren’t subject to seasonal ups and downs.
Questions for Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D., Demographer, Statistician, and Lead Author on “Births: Provisional Data for 2016”
Q: Why did you decide to change the name of the report from preliminary to provisional?
BH: report is part of the National Vital Statistics System, Vital Statistics Rapid Release provisional data series which replaces the preliminary report series to provide a consistent set of quarterly and annual data releases. Except for small changes in record weights, the same processing procedure was used for provisional as was used for the preliminary data and the data are comparable.
Q: How does provisional 2016 data on U.S. births overall compare to previous years?
BH: The provisional number of births for the United States was down 1% in 2016 from the final number of birth in 2015. The general fertility rate was down too from 2015, 1%, to 62.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, a record low for the county.
Birth rates declined for women in all age groups under 30 years between 2015 and 2016, to record lows for all groups, whereas the rates for women in their 30s and 40s rose.
The nonmarital birth rate declined 3% in 2016. In 2016, slightly more than 3 out of 4 women began prenatal care in the first trimester, down 3% from 2015. The cesarean delivery rate declined in 2016 for the fourth year in a row (to 31.9%). However, the preterm birth rate rose for the second year in a row in 2016 (to 9.84%) and the low birthweight rate was also up for the second straight year in 2016 (to 8.16%).
Q: How has the birth rate changed for U.S. teenagers in provisional 2016 data?
BH: The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 declined 9% in 2016 to 20.3 births per 1,000 women, with rates declining 11% for both younger (aged 15–17) and 8% for older (aged 18–19) teenagers. The 9% decline for teenaged 15-19 from 2015 to 2016 is atop of a continuous average decline of 8% from 2007 through 2014.
(The rates for younger and older teens declined on average by 11% and 8% from 2007 through 2014.)
Q: Was there anything in the 2016 provisional birth data that surprised you?
BH: Apart from the continued, unprecedented decline in teen birth, it is worth noting that women aged 30-34 have the highest birth rate (102.6 births per 1,000 women) in 2016 than any other age group. Since 1983, the rate for women in their late thirties was the highest.
In addition, it is also worth noting the rise in the preterm birth rate which was up again in 2016 (by 2%), after falling 8% from 2007 to 2014.
Q: What is the take home message from this report?
BH: The number of births and general fertility rate were down in 2016, as were the rates for women under 30 years of age. The percentage of births beginning prenatal care in the first trimester and the cesarean delivery rate were also down in 2016, whereas preterm birth and low birthweight rates rose.
The Vital Statistics Rapid Release program provides access to the timeliest vital statistics for public health surveillance, through 1) releases of Quarterly Provisional Estimates and 2) Special Reports based on a current flow of vital statistics data from state vital records offices.
Using the provisional data, NCHS produces much more timely estimates of important health indicators for public health practitioners, researchers, and health policy-makers than would be possible using final annual data.