In down economy, older moms' births still up in U.S.

ATLANTA -- U.S. births fell in 2008, probably because of the recession, updated government figures confirm.

The one exception was the birthrate among women in their 40s, who perhaps felt that they didn't have the luxury of waiting for better economic times.

The birthrate for women in their early 40s rose a surprising 4 percent over the previous year, reaching its highest mark since 1967. The rate for women in their late 40s rose slightly.

But birthrates fell for teen mothers, as well as for women in their 20s and 30s.

"Women are postponing births to those later ages, above 40," said James Trussell, director of Princeton University's Office of Population Research. Trussell was not involved in the research.

The new report on births was issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's based on a review of more than 99 percent of birth certificates for 2008 -- the first full year of the recession.

Overall, about 4.2 million babies were born that year, a 2 percent drop from 2007. It's the first annual decline in births since the start of the decade.

Experts say the most likely explanations are the recession and a decline in immigration to the United States, which has been blamed on the weak job market.

The new report found that 2008 birthrates fell by 3 percent for women in their early 20s, 2 percent for women in their late 20s and 1 percent for women in their 30s.

The trend in those numbers indicates that the older women got, the less willing they were to postpone a birth, said the new report's lead author, Brady Hamilton of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

The teen birthrate dropped 2 percent.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center also issued a report Tuesday that found that several states with the biggest declines in birthrates -- like Arizona, Florida and California -- were among those that fared the worst by various economic measures.