Questions for Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D., Demographer, Statistician, and Lead Author of “Births: Provisional Data for 2018.”
Q: How does the provisional 2018 birth data compare to previous years?
BH: The number of births, the general fertility rate, the total fertility rate, birth rates for women aged 15-34, the cesarean delivery rate and the low-risk cesarean delivery rate declined from 2017 to 2018, whereas the birth rates for women aged 35-44 and the preterm birth rate rose.
Q: When do you expect the final 2018 birth report to come out?
BH: The 2018 final birth report is scheduled for release in the fall of 2019.
Q: How did the data vary by age and race?
BH: Birth measures shown in the report varied widely by age and race and Hispanic origin groups. Birth rates ranged from 0.2 births per 1,000 females aged 10-14 to 99.6 births per 1,000 women aged 30-34. By race and Hispanic origin, the cesarean delivery rate ranged from 28.7% of births for non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native women to 36.1% for non-Hispanic black women and the preterm birth rate ranged from 8.56% for non-Hispanic Asian women to 14.12% for non-Hispanic black women.
Q: Was there a specific finding in the provisional data that surprised you?
BH: The report includes a number of interesting findings. The record lows reached for the general fertility rate, the total fertility rate and birth rates for females aged 15-19, 15-17, 18-19, and 20-24 are noteworthy. In addition, the magnitude of the continued decline in the birth rate for teens aged 15-19, down 7% from 2017 to 2018, is also historic.
Q: What is the take home message for this report?
BH: The number of births for the United States was down 2% from 2017 to 2018, as were the general fertility rate and the total fertility rate, with both at record lows in 2018. Birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women under 35, but rose for women in their late 30s and early 40s. The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 was down 7% from 2017 to 2018. The cesarean delivery rate and low-risk cesarean delivery rate were down in 2018. The preterm birth rate rose for the fourth year in a row in 2018.
Q: Do you anticipate this drop will continue?
BH: The factors associated with family formation and childbearing are numerous and complex. The data on which the report are based come from all birth certificates registered in the U.S. While the scope of these data is wide, with detailed demographic and health information on rare events, small areas, or small population groups, the data do not provide information on the attitudes and behavior of the parents regarding family formation and childbearing. Accordingly, these data do not answer the question of why the number of births dropped in 2018 or if the decline will continue.