Questions for Joyce Martin, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Births: Final Data for 2018”
Q: What is new in this report from the 2018 provisional birth report?
JM: In addition to providing final numbers and rates for numerous birth characteristics such as fertility rates, teen childbearing, cesarean delivery and preterm and low birthweight, this report presents final information on teen childbearing by race and Hispanic origin and by state, births to unmarried women, tobacco use during pregnancy, source of payment for the delivery and twin and triplet childbearing.
Q: Was there a specific finding in the 2018 final birth data that surprised you?
JM: The continued decline in birth rates to unmarried women (down 2% for 2017-2018 to 40.1 births per 1,000 unmarried women), the fairly steep decline in tobacco smoking among pregnant women (down 6% to 6.5% of all women) and the continued declines in twin (down 2%) and triplet (down 8%) birth rates. Also of note is the decline in the percentage of births covered by Medicaid between 2017 and 2018 (down 2% to 42.3%) and the small rise in the percentage covered by private insurance (49.6% in 2018).
Q: How did you obtain this data for this report?
JM: These data are based on information for all birth certificates registered in the United States for 2018.
Q: What is the take home message for this report?
JM: Birth certificate data provide a wealth of important current and trend information on demographic and maternal and infant health characteristics for the United States.
Q: Why do you think the birth has dropped in the U.S.?
JM: The factors associated with family formation and childbearing are numerous and complex, involving psychological, cultural, demographic, and socio-economic influences. The data on which the report is based come from all birth certificates registered in the U.S. While the data provide a wealth of information on topics such as the number of births occurring in small areas, to small population groups, and for rare health outcomes, the data do not provide information on the attitudes and behavior of the parents regarding family formation and childbearing. Accordingly, the data in and of itself cannot answer the question of why births have dropped in the U.S.