“Births: Final Data for 2017” Released

November 7, 2018

The comprehensive report on final births data for the United States was released on November 7, 2018, documenting a total of 3,855,500 births registered in the United States, down 2% from 2016. Compared with rates in 2016, the general fertility rate declined to 60.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44. The birth rate for females aged 15–19 fell 7% in 2017. Birth rates declined for women in their 20s and 30s but increased for women in their early 40s. The total fertility rate declined to 1,765.5 births per 1,000 women in 2017. Birth rates for both married and unmarried women declined from 2016 to 2017, and the percentage of babies born to unmarried women (39.8) did not change between 2016 and 2017.  Many of these findings were documented in a May 2018 provisional release of 2017 data.

The final data are contained in the new publication “Births: Final Data for 2017.”

Some new data for 2017 are included for the first time in the new report:

  • The percentage of women who began prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy rose to 77.3% in 2017.
  • The percentage of all women who smoked during pregnancy declined to 6.9%. Percentages dropped for all race/ethnic groups from 2016 to 2017 except for Hispanic mothers (no change) and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander mothers (a 0.1 percentage point increase).
  • Medicaid was the source of payment for 43.0% of all births in 2017, up 1% from 2016.
  • Twin and triplet and higher-order multiple birth rates were essentially stable in 2017.
  • The average age of U.S. mothers at first birth in 2017 was 26.8 years, an increase from 26.6 years in 2016 – and a new all-time high.

Births: Provisional Data for 2017

May 17, 2018

Questions for Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D., Demographer, Statistician, and Lead Author of “Births: Provisional Data for 2017

Q: What did you think was the most interesting finding in your new analysis?

BH: The report includes a number of very interesting findings. The general fertility rate, 60.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, declining 3% in 2017 and reaching a record low is certainly noteworthy. In addition, the continued decline in the birth rate for teens, down 7% from 2016 to in 2017, and reaching another record low, is very significant. The increase in the cesarean delivery rate following several years of decline is noteworthy as are the recent increase in rates of preterm and low birthweight births.

Q: Why does fertility keep going down in the U.S.?

BH: In general, there are a number of factors associated with fertility. The data on which the report is based comes from the birth certificates registered for births in the U.S. While the scope of this data is essentially all births in the country, and provides detailed information about rare events, small areas, or small population groups, the data does not provide information about the parent’s decision to have (or not have) a child. And so, accordingly, we cannot examine the “why” of the changes and trends in births.

Q: Does the decline in the Total Fertility Rate essentially mean fertility is down below “replacement” levels?  Could you explain this in general terms?

BH: “Replacement” refers to a minimum rate of reproduction necessary for generation to exactly replace itself, that is, enough children born to replace a group of 1,000 women and their partners. For the total fertility rate, this rate is generally considered to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women. In 2017, the total fertility rate, 1,764.5 births per 1,000 women, was below replacement.

Q: Do the increases among women over 40 suggest a “new norm” in people waiting till much later to have children?

BH: Birth rates for women aged 40-44 and 45-49 years have increased generally over the last 3 decades. Given this, it reasonable to expect this trend to continue.

Q: Are the annual declines in teen pregnancy something that we are in danger of taking for granted?

BH: The birth rate for females aged 15-19 has decreased 8% per year from 2007 through 2017. For comparison, the decline in the birth rates for women aged 20-24 and 25-29 was 4% and 2% from 2007 through 2017. The decline in teen births is very noteworthy.

Q: Can you explain how the increases in preterm births and low birthweight are connected?

BH: Infants born preterm are also often, but not exclusively, born low birthweight and vice-versa.  The causes of the recent upward shift in these rates are not well understood.

Fact or Fiction: Are Asian mothers are less likely to be unmarried at the time they give birth than mothers of other race/ethnicities in the U.S.?

April 18, 2018

Source: National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 67, Nos. 1 and 2



Asian American Mothers: Maternal Characteristics by Maternal Place of Birth and Asian Subgroup, United States, 2016

April 18, 2018

Questions for Anne K. Driscoll, Ph.D., Statistician and Lead Author of “Asian American Mothers: Maternal Characteristics by Maternal Place of Birth and Asian Subgroup, United States, 2016

Q: What do you feel was the most interesting finding in your report?

AD: Although Asian mothers as a groups differ from other mothers on the characteristics analyzed, they are a heterogeneous group; birthplace and Asian subgroup are key sources of that heterogeneity.

Q: What countries of origin do Asian-Indian mothers come from?

AD: Asian Indian refers to people from India (i.e., to distinguish between people from India and Native Americans/ American Indians).

Q: How do we explain the significant difference between unmarried childbearing among Asian women vs. the rest of the U.S.?

ADIt is likely that the difference is related to differences in educational attainment and maternal age between Asian women and other women, as well as to other factors not measured here.

Q: How do the high education levels among Asian mothers compare to U.S. mothers of other races?

ADAsian mothers have the highest education levels of any race/Hispanic origin group; the percent with at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly 50% higher than that of non-Hispanic white mothers, the group with the second highest education level.

Q: Any other significant findings you’d like to mention about your study?

ADAsian mothers, both those born in and outside the US, were more likely to be age 30 and over and less likely to be teen mothers than other groups.

Births: Final Data for 2015

January 5, 2017

Questions for Joyce A. Martin, M.P.H., Demographer, Statistician, and Lead Author on “Births: Final Data for 2015

Q: Was there a result in your study’s analysis of births in the United States that you hadn’t expected and that really surprised you?

JM: Although small, (from 9.57% to 9.63%) the rise in the preterm birth rate (births of less than 37 completed weeks of gestation) was unexpected. This rate had been declining steadily since 2007.

Also of note is the decline in the triplet and higher-order multiple birth rate, down 9% from 2014 to 2015, and a decrease of 46% since 1998. The year 2015 also is the third straight year of declines in the rate of cesarean delivery (rate of 32.0% in 2015).

The continued, large decline in the teen birth rate (down 8% from 2014 to 2015) was also somewhat surprising, although not unprecedented. From 2007 through 2014, the teen birth rates had declined 7% annually.

Q: What is the difference between this new births report and the other reports your office produced on 2015 birth data, like the preliminary data report on 2015 births and the Data Brief on teen births?

JM: The annual report “Births: Final Data for 2015” offers substantially more detail (e.g., age, race and Hispanic origin of mother, state) on key topics, than does the report on preliminary birth statistics (“Births: Preliminary Data for 2015”). The final report also includes information on topics not included in the preliminary reports such as multiple births, attendant and place of birth, birth order and birth rates for fathers.

Q: How has the number of births in the United States changed in 2015 from previous years?

JM: The number of births in the United States declined slightly in 2015 (by 9,579 births to 3,978,497) from 2014. The decline for 2015 followed an increase in births for 2014, which was the first increase since 2007.

Q: What differences, if any, did you see among race and ethnic groups, and among various ages?

JM: Of continued concern are the higher risks of poor birth outcomes as measured by levels of preterm birth and low birthweight among non-Hispanic black mothers compared with total births and other race and Hispanic origin groups. For example, in 2015 the preterm birth rate for births to non-Hispanic black mothers was more than 50% higher at 13.41% than for non-Hispanic white women (8.88%) and nearly 50% higher than the rate for births to Hispanic mothers (9.14%).

Q: Did you observe any regional or state differences in this study on births?

JM: Differences by state were observed for many of the demographic and medical/health items included in the 2015 final birth report. For example, from 2014 to 2015, the general fertility rate–which is the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15–44–declined in eight states and was essentially unchanged in the 42 states and the District of Columbia (DC). In 2015, the general fertility rate ranged among states from 51.1 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in Vermont to 78.2 in South Dakota.

Also, increases in preterm birth rates were limited to four states from 2014 to 2015: Arkansas, California, Nebraska, and North Carolina. Rates declined in four states: Montana, New York, Texas and Wyoming. Nonsignificant differences were reported for the remaining states and DC.

Smoking Prevalence and Cessation Before and During Pregnancy

February 10, 2016


A new NCHS report presents findings on maternal smoking prevalence and cessation before and during pregnancy as collected on the 2003 U.S. Standard Certificate of Live Birth, for a 46-state and District of Columbia reporting area, representing 95% of all births in the United States.


  • About 1 in 10 women who gave birth in 2014 smoked during the 3 months before pregnancy (10.9%), and about one-quarter of these women (24.2%) did not smoke during pregnancy (i.e., quit before pregnancy).
  • The smoking rate at any time during pregnancy was 8.4%, with 20.6% of women who smoked in the first or second trimesters quitting by the third trimester.
  • Smoking during pregnancy was more prevalent for women aged 20–24 (13.0%) than for other ages, and by race and Hispanic origin, the highest rate was for non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native women (18%).

Average Age of Mothers is on the Rise in the United States

January 14, 2016

A mother’s age at birth, and particularly the mean or “average” age when a mother has her first child, is of interest to researchers and the public. Mean age can affect the total number of births a mother has over a lifetime, which in turn impacts the composition and growth of the U.S. population.

Age of mother is associated with a range of birth outcomes, such as multiple births and birth defects. An earlier report presented trends in mean age from 1970 to 2000.

An NCHS report presents trends in the mean age at first and higher birth orders by race and Hispanic origin of mother and by state from 2000 to 2014.


  • The mean age of mothers has increased from 2000 to 2014 for all birth orders, with age at first birth having the largest increase, up from 24.9 years in 2000 to 26.3 years in 2014.
  • Increases in the average age for all birth orders were most pronounced from 2009 to 2014.
  • In 2014, Asian or Pacific Islander mothers had the oldest average age at first birth (29.5 years), while American Indian or Alaska Native mothers had the youngest (23.1 years).
  • Mean age at first birth increased in all states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) from 2000 to 2014, but D.C. (3.4 years) and Oregon had the largest increases (2.1 years).