The American birth rate dropped for the fourth year in a row in 2011 in a trend demographers blame on the continued weakness of the economy, reports the AP. But the drop was 1% instead of the 2% or 3% seen in previous years, a sign that the economy may have recovered enough for more people to decide they can afford to start a family. The birth rate dived 6% among Hispanic women and the teen birth rate sank 8%, with the number of teen births reaching its lowest since 1946.
The birth rate also fell among women in their early 20s and single women, but the rate rose among married women and women over 35, who tend to be more financially secure. Despite the slide in the birth rate that started in 2007, it's still near the replacement level, meaning a Japan- or Italy-style aging population isn't a major worry for the US, an official at the National Center for Health Statistics says. "And we haven't seen any studies that show couples want to have fewer children or no children," she adds. (Read more demography stories.)