Most people would respond to the birth of a child with a hearty Mazel Tov! or a cigar. The Associated Press, here through the Los Angeles Times, decides to wear sackcloth and ashes. A baby boomlet in the United States -- which merely returned us briefly to viability -- gets blamed on a lack of abortions, poverty, and stupidity:
The nearly 4.3 million births in 2006 were mostly due to a bigger population, especially a growing number of Latinos. That group accounted for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. births. But non-Latino white women and other racial and ethnic groups were having more babies too.
An Associated Press review of births dating to 1909 found the total in the U.S. was the highest since 1961, near the end of the baby boom. An examination of global data also shows that the United States has a higher fertility rate than every country in continental Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan. Fertility levels in those countries have been lower than the U.S. rate for several years, although some are on the rise, most notably in France.
Experts believe there is a mix of reasons: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty.
The AP spends a paragraph discussing how Latinos have higher fertility rates, and later contradict themselves by noting that birth rates went up among almost all demographic groups. After that, they first note that teen pregnancies rose in 2006, but then also state that pregnancies increased in every age group.
In the middle of all that, they grudgingly concede that Americans actually like children and want to have them. I guess they ran out of other explanations.
Pardon, but I don't think a lack of contraception or awareness of the options has much affect on birth rates in this day and age. Kids get taught about contraception in middle school, and certainly people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s have access to these options. Was abortion less available as an option in 2006 than it was in 2005? The AP reports this without ever providing any evidence that it's true -- just regurgitate the suggestion as "experts say". Fabulous job of journalism, that. And perhaps poverty is an aphrodisiac, but the story gives no indication that a greater percentage of these children have been born into that state than the previous year.
Even with this boomlet, we have only just returned to the 2.1 fertility rate that maintains stability in population levels. It's hardly a "boom" in the sense of expansion, and only remarkable because most of our partners in the West have begun stark declines in population. That the US has a maintenance level of fertility should not be cause for either celebration or wailing and gnashing of teeth.