Science notes: U.S. birthrate drops to lowest level since 1920

  • December 1, 2012 - 4:14 PM


The U.S. birthrate plunged last year to a record low, with the decline being led by immigrant women hit hard by the recession, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

The overall birthrate declined by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010, with a decrease of 6 percent among U.S.-born women and 14 percent among foreign-born women. The decline for Mexican immigrant women was 23 percent. The overall birthrate is now at its lowest since 1920, the earliest year with reliable records. A continuing decline would challenge long-held assumptions that births to immigrants will help maintain the U.S. population and provide the taxpaying workforce needed to support the baby boomer generation. The U.S. birthrate -- 63.2 births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age -- has fallen to just over half of what it was at its peak in 1957. While the declining has not yet created the stark imbalances in such countries as Japan, it should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, said Roberto Suro, a professor of public policy at UCLA.


Using large national cancer registries, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found vast racial disparities in breast cancer severity, treatment and mortality.

Although black women get mammograms as often as white women, by the time of diagnosis, the disease has spread to other organs in 45 percent of blacks, compared with 35 percent of whites, the researchers found. Black women fare worse at each phase: follow-up of abnormal findings, starting treatment and completing it.

Black women have a slightly lower incidence of breast cancer than white women, but their death rate from the disease is 41 percent higher.

Even among women with similar insurance, black women have longer intervals between diagnosis and the start of treatment. Quality of the health care is one reason for the disparity. Biology is another. Black women are more likely to have types of tumors that have a poorer prognosis. "It's a complex problem, but there are clearly avoidable components of this that we can address and resolve: the issues related to health care quality," said Dr. Marcus Plescia.


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