Record Births Create Population Milestone

A record 4.3 million babies were born in the United States last year.

ByABC News
July 17, 2008, 8:00 PM

July 17, 2008— -- The National Center for Health Statistics just reported a population milestone. In 2007, a record number of 4,315,000 babies were born in the United States. With more babies born last year than any other year in U.S. history, nearly doubling the number born century ago, signs point to a potential start of a new American baby boom.

"It's a record, and it's a particularly interesting record because the year it beats is 1957, which was the height of the baby boom," said Robert Engelman, vice president for programs at the Worldwatch Institute based in Washington, D.C, and author of "More: Population, Nature and What Women Want."

"This is the first year that we've actually beat the baby boom," he said.

So do signs point to a potential start of a new American baby boom?

Today's population trends are remarkable when you stop to think of the conditions that led to the Baby Boom. Historians attribute the 1950s-era boom to the carefree prosperity of those post-war years, which today seem like a distant memory.

So with gas prices soaring, housing prices faltering and the economy in a tailspin, America's propensity to procreate now may seem odd.

It's not quite another Baby Boom.

"In the '50s, the average woman was having close to four children. Now she's having close to two," Engelman said.

The overall population is nearly double what it was in the '50s, which means even though parents are having fewer children, the numbers add up.

There's been an uptick in the number of women having children later in their lives, whether as a career choice or with the help of technology. Among women in their 40s, the birth rate has doubled since the 1990s and quadrupled since the 1980s.

Childbirth among unmarried women is at record-high levels, too.

But the biggest factor contributing to the current baby boom, demographers say, is immigration. The birth rate is rising fastest among Hispanic immigrants in particular, far outpacing the 2.1 average births per woman.

One potential benefit of more kids born today is that they enter the labor force and become future taxpayers. In addition, they will help fulfill the currently aging baby boomers' demands on Social Security.