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Birth rates mixed locally
Monday, September 9, 2013
By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
The number of births nationwide declined at a smaller rate in 2012 than it did in the previous few years, prompting some observers to wonder if America’s so-called “baby bust” is coming to an end.
The situation is hard to determine in Henry County and Martinsville, where birth data is mixed.
Births among Martinsville residents generally have increased since 2007, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). During the same period, Henry County has had fewer births, the data show.
The number of births in Martinsville rose from 213 in 2007 to 265 in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, VDH reported. With 203 births, 2009 was the only year in that span that saw a drop.
Henry County had 627 births in 2007 and that number decreased each year, to 485 in 2011, according to the VDH.
The number of babies born at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville also is down. A total of 471 babies were born at Memorial in 2012, down from 511 the previous year, according to information provided by the hospital.
Those numbers represent only babies born at Memorial and do not reflect where the parents lived, the hospital said.
Nationwide, the number of births has dropped every year since it hit a high of 4.3 million in 2007, The Associated Press reported Friday. The drop is widely attributed to the flagging U.S. economy during that period.
However, the number of U.S. births dropped by only a few hundred in 2012, and for the first time since 2007, the numbers inched up for women in their early 30s, the AP reported.
The same has been true in Virginia in recent years, said Lewis Hughes of the VDH.
“Most rates ... have been trending downward,” he said. “Actually, the age 30-34 rate has been trending up, while the overall birth rate has been tending to go down.”
Mirroring a nationwide trend, the numbers of births to teenagers have dropped in Martinsville and Henry County in recent years.
In the city, births to teens dropped from a rate of 70.2 per 1,000 births in 2007 to 34 per 1,000 in 2011.
In Henry County, the rate of births per 1,000 teens dropped from 41.2 in 2007 to 19.9 in 2011, the VDH reported.