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2008.08.07 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

Report Shows Nebraska Births Highest in 25 Years, Fertility Rates Rising

Omaha - Nebraska’s 2006 number of births was the highest since 1982, leading to the largest natural increase in population in the last 25 years, according to a new report released by researchers at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).

Nebraska has traditionally gained residents through natural increase, where the annual number of births is larger than the annual number of deaths, but the recent uptick is worth noting, since it is positively affecting total population growth in the state and will likely lead to the need for new schools and other services in the future.

“Government officials and policy makers need to be aware of these figures now, so that appropriate decisions can be made,” said David Drozd of the Center for Public Affairs Research (CPAR) at UNO, who compiled the report. “We see the trend of increasing births and fertility rates continuing if not expanding in the next several years.”

A PDF of the report is available for download at http://cpar.unomaha.edu/documents/BirthReport.pdf.

The report, which details some statistics as far back as 1930, shows that fertility rates, or births per 1,000 women of reproductive age, have been rising since the mid-1990s. Rates have increased for all three of Nebraska’s major racial and ethnic groups.

“Some perceive that our increasing births are only a result of Hispanic inmigration, but that’s just one of many factors,” Drozd said. “Births and fertility rates have been increasing among White non-Hispanics and Black non-Hispanics as well.”

By definition, fertility rates account for differences in the number of women age 15-44 over time. Thus, recent rises in births are not simply only a function of having more residents of reproductive age as the state’s total population grows. In fact, as the last “baby boomers” move beyond age 44, births have risen as the total female population age 15-44 actually has declined.

The state’s gender and age structure is a primary reason for increasing births and natural change. The baby boom after World War II has had ripple effects, as “boomers” had the majority of their own children in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s and now those kids are grown and having their own children. “We had a baby boom in the 1950s, an echo of that 25 or 30 years later and now we’re seeing it echo again,” said Jerry Deichert, director of CPAR and co-author of the report.

The report notes that the leading edge of the baby boom echo has now entered their prime reproductive years, ages 25-29. This helps explain in part the recent rise in the number of births. However, the largest part of the baby boom echo is now 20-24 and if they remain in Nebraska, will enter their prime reproductive age in the next few years, leading to the projection of continued rising births.

Birth rates are highest among 25-29 year olds, followed by ages 30-34 and then 20-24. The national trend of delaying child bearing until later in life is apparent in Nebraska, as age 20-24 used to have the highest birth rate until about 1975, and births and birth rates among teenagers have dropped dramatically. Birth rates have increased for those 25 to 29, 30 to 34, and 35 to 39, with rates for those 30-34 approaching levels last seen in 1960 during the baby boom.

Statistics show that rising births can also be explained in part from a reduction in induced abortions. Abortions occurring in Nebraska, about 90 percent of which are for state residents, peaked in 1990 and have declined steadily since. Abortion rates and ratios to live births have declined dramatically, especially among teens. Whereas about 250 induced abortions occurred for every 1,000 live births in 1990, that figure dropped to about 100 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2006.

While Nebraska has seen higher levels of natural increase, not all of its counties have. Over 80 percent of Nebraska’s counties had a natural increase during the 1980s but only about 50 percent have from 2000 to 2006. This presents a problem for many counties as combined with a net outflow of residents, will likely lead to new or continued population loss.

“We know that most Nebraska counties are having more people move out than move in, so if they don’t have births exceeding deaths to counteract that outflow, the area is in a sense ‘doomed’ to have population loss until a change in trend occurs,” Drozd said.

“Thus, the long-standing trend of population loss will likely continue in many areas and may begin for others,” Drozd added.

The findings of this report and other state and local population trends will be detailed at CPAR’s annual state data conference to be held Thursday, Aug. 14 at the Boys Town Conference Center. See CPAR’s Web site at www.unomaha.edu/cpar for details.

Other highlights from the report include:

• The high levels of births and natural change led to Nebraska experiencing its largest estimated annual population change in the last 10 years during 2006 to 2007.

• Births to Nebraska residents peaked during the baby boom at 34,544 in 1961. 2006 births stood at 26,722, the highest since 26,920 in 1982.

• Annual deaths in Nebraska have been remarkably steady – at about 15,000 per year since the mid-1960s.

• While 2006 Hispanic fertility rates (145.2 births per 1,000 women age 15-44) are twice as high as among White non-Hispanics (67.3), nearly three in four state births were to White non-Hispanic mothers in 2006. About 15 percent of state births were to Hispanic mothers.

• Births to unmarried women in Nebraska have risen significantly, from three percent of all births in 1960 to about 32 percent in 2006.

• County fertility rates, teen birth rates, and the percentage of births to unmarried mothers tend to be higher in counties that have a relatively large minority population.

Editor’s note: To discuss these results in greater detail with Drozd, contact him at ddrozd@unomaha.edu or (402) 554-2132.

* *

UNO will celebrate its 100th anniversary beginning October 8, 2008. This celebration will recognize the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant and dynamic community. The centennial theme is “UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908.” This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come.

UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908. For Centennial information, go to http://www.unomaha.edu/100/.

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