Fertility and abortion rates in the United States, 1960–2002


Brady E.Hamilton, Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD, USA E-mail: bhamilton@cdc.gov


This paper provides a general overview of trends in the United States (US) birth, fertility and abortion data from 1960 to 2002. Rates by age, race and Hispanic origin are also discussed. Data presented in this paper are derived primarily from published reports of the US government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. In 2002, there were 4 021 726 births in the US. The general fertility rate was 64.8 births per 1000 women aged 15–44 years, the total fertility rate was 2013.0 children per 1000 women, and the net reproduction rate was 968 daughters per 1000 women. These rates have declined in the US since 1960, down by at least 44% for all rates. While these rates have been declining, there are substantial differences in fertility patterns by age and race and Hispanic origin. Rates for women, 30 years of age and over, increased between 1980 and 2002. In contrast, rates for women under 25 years of age rose considerably during the late 1980s, and then decreased sharply since 1991. Rates for women in their late twenties (25–29 years of age), the principal childbearing ages, have fluctuated within a narrow range throughout this period (1980–2002). As a result of the increase in births to older women, the mean age of mother at first birth increased by nearly 4 years from 1968 to 2002. In 2000, the latest year for which data are available, there were 21.3 induced abortions per 1000 women aged 15–44 years, down from 27.4 in 1990. The total abortion rate, average number of legally induced abortions that would occur to a hypothetical cohort of 1000 women, was 672.0 abortions per 1000 women in 2000, down from 785.5 in 1980. The abortion rate has declined fairly steadily since 1980. Like the birth and fertility rates, substantial differences in abortion rates exist by age and race and Hispanic origin. The rates of induced abortion increased for women in their thirties between 1980 and 2000, whereas rates for women under 25 years of age and women 40 years of age and over decreased since 1980. The rate for women 25–29 years of age changed little. The rate of induced abortion was considerably higher for non-Hispanic black women (57.4) in 2000 than for non-Hispanic white women (11.7). The rate for Hispanic women (30.6) was intermediate. The total abortion rate was also much higher for non-Hispanic black women than non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women.