Baby Bust

Once upon a time it was thought that the inauguration of President Obama would lead to a brighter future for the U.S. and an increase in the birth of babies, but that has not been the case. In fact, the birth rate declined in 2008, the first annual decline since the start of the decade and all indicators show the decline may continue through 2009. “Births are now predominantly planned and not very responsive to good news,” according to University of Chicago demographer and sociologist, Donald Bogue. This may help explain why the Obama baby boom never developed.

Not surprisingly, the economy can certainly be blamed for Americans having fewer babies. If you are uncertain about the future, having a child is viewed as a bad idea, especially given the amount of money needed to raise and educate a child through to adulthood. With college prices soaring and a degree becoming a necessity in the hiring process, the average cost to raise a child born in 2009 will total $ 266,698. That figure includes a four year college degree from a public university averaging $ 12,796 annually and a cost of $ 11,973 for the child’s first year of life.

The rate of Birth Announcements has historically changed with the economy. Record low birth rates were reported during the Depression of the 1930s and during the oil embargo of the 1970s when feminism was also on the rise and birth control options expanded. In the 1970s the economy almost dictated that there are two wage earners in a family. Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, a research and advocacy group said, “More than 80 percent of the job losses in this recession have been borne by men. There are a lot of families where a maternity leave would mean that no income at all was coming in.”

The birth rate in 2007 broke a 50 year old record high but declined approximately 2% in all but 10 states in 2008 according to last week’s National Vital Statistics Provisional Data Report for 2008. The relatively unaffected states were less severely affected by the recession. In the first three months of 2009, births declined 7% in Florida and Arizona and 2.6% in California, its first decline since 2001. One might also contend that couples are waiting longer to get married and start families and that the current child producing population is more centered on “me” than on “we”.

Data from 2009 will be critical when considering the start date of the current recession to be in December 2007 or early 2008. Given that the state of the economy is much worse than that of the 1970s, all measures and indicators point to a birth rate decline. However, Mark Mather, demographer with the Population Reference Bureau has also suggested that the recent decline in immigration to the U.S. may be a contributing factor as well. It will certainly be interesting to see the official vital statistics data once 2009 comes to an end.

Although our new President did not spark an upswing in births, it is interesting to note that the name Barack for new babies set a record on the Social Security Administration’s annual Most Popular Baby Names list by shooting up more than 10,000 spots. It went from number 12,535 in 2007 to number 2,409 in 2008 with projections for it to hit the top 1,000 this year.

So if you are one of the fortunate to receive Baptism Invitations or Christening Invitations in the mail, know that in the year ahead we may well see a sharp decline in Baby Birth Announcements as we await the official birth rate figures for 2009 and projections for 2010.

Linda Cress Dowdy is an avid greeting card enthusiast and professional author, editor and copywriter. For a great selection of all occasion Greeting Cards, Announcements and Invitations, visit