Rhode Islanders just aren’t making babies like they used to.
The state’s fertility rate fell to the lowest level in at least two decades last year as relatively few Rhode Island women of childbearing age brought home a newborn, according to a new National Center for Health Statistics study.
The study shows Rhode Islanders gave birth to 10,960 babies last year, which translates to 51.5 births for every 1,000 female residents between the ages of 15 and 44 – the lowest fertility rate of any state in the nation.
The fertility rate nationwide was 63.2 births but it was significantly lower throughout New England, with the region’s highest rate in Massachusetts, which had 54.4 births per 1,000 women 15 to 44. Women in Utah have the nation’s highest fertility rate: 83.6 births, about 32 more babies than women in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island’s fertility dropped fell sharply as the economy began to sour, from 55.8 births in 2007 to 51.9 births in 2010, along with the nation’s. As recently as 1990 the state’s fertility rate was 63.6 births; it’s fallen 19% since then, significantly more than the 11% decline nationally.
The new statistics also provide more evidence of Rhode Island’s changing demographics: 22% of the 10,960 babies born in the state were Hispanic last year, while 62% were non-Hispanic white. By comparison, the 2010 U.S. Census showed Rhode Island’s overall population was 81% non-Hispanic white and 12% Hispanic.
“Of course economic distress isn’t the only reason births decline – look at the huge decline following the baby boom that was driven by demographics,” analyst Bill McBride wrote. “But it is not surprising that the number of births slow or decline during tough economic times – and that appears to have happened once again.”