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Cherlin said the U.S. birth rate "is still higher than the birth rate in many wealthy countries and we also have many immigrants entering the country. So we do not need to be worried yet about a birth dearth" that would crimp the nation's ability to take care of its growing elderly population.
The new U.S. report is a rough count of births from states. It estimates there were 4,136,000 births in 2009, down from a year ago's estimate of 4,247,000 in 2008 and more than 4.3 million in 2007.
The report does not give details on trends in different age groups. That will come next spring and will give a clearer picture who is and is not having children, Ventura said.
Last spring's report, on births in 2008, showed an overall drop but a surprising rise in births to women over 40, who may have felt they were running out of time to have children and didn't want to delay despite the bad economy.
Women who postpone having children because of careers also may find they have trouble conceiving, said Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based demographic research group.
"For some of those women, they're going to find themselves in their mid-40s, where it's going to be hard to have the number of children they want," he said.
Heather Atherton is nearing that mark. The Sacramento, Calif., mom, who turns 36 next month, started a home-based public relations business after her daughter was born in 2003. She and her husband upgraded to a larger home in 2005 and planned on having a second child not long afterward. Then the recession hit, drying up her husband's sales commissions and leaving them owing more on their home than it is worth. A second child seemed too risky financially.
"However, we just recently decided that it's time to stop waiting and just go for it early next year and let the chips fall where they may," she said. "We can't allow the recession to dictate the size of our family. We just need to move forward with our lives."
CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/
Birth trends: http://tinyurl.com/28b2gjc
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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