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Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center also issued a report Tuesday that found that several states with the biggest declines in birth rates -- like Arizona, Florida and California -- were among those that fared the worst by various economic measures.
The organization also pointed to a 2009 survey that found 14 percent of people in their prime child-bearing years said they had put off having a child because of the recession.
Experts say the postponement theory may explain why younger women had lower birth rates in the CDC findings, but probably doesn't explain the drop in teen births. It also doesn't explain why the birth rate for older women rose so sharply.
Some speculated that more sophisticated assisted reproduction services may be paying off for older couples, or perhaps some divorced women are choosing to have additional children with a new partner later in life.
The new CDC report also showed that the percentage of babies born prematurely fell a bit, from 12.7 percent to 12.3 percent, an improvement celebrated by some health advocates.
From 1990 to 2006, the nation saw a 20 percent rise in the rate of premature births -- a worrisome trend because preemies are more fragile. Experts believe premature births are the main reason the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than in most European countries.
The 2008 decline may be a sign of new efforts by doctors and mothers to bring births to full term and, when possible, to have one baby at a time rather than twins, triplets or other multiples. Multiple births generally have to be delivered preterm.
"Things are starting to move in the right direction," said Jennifer Howse, president of the March of Dimes.
On the Net:
CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/
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