Baby Boom's New Echo

June 26, 1981

Report Outline
Rising U.S. Infant Visibility
The Postwar Baby Boom
Demographics of the Future
Special Focus

Rising U.S. Infant Visibility

Childbearing by Postwar Baby Boomers

Babies are staging a comeback on the American scene these days. They have always been around, of course, but in the past two decades they have suffered from a certain obscurity. The postwar baby boom faded into the youth culture of the 1960s, followed by the singles society of the 1970s. But infant visibility again is rising, suggesting that another baby boom may be in the making. Though the statistical evidence is scant and tentative, the subject of childbearing is gaining attention. “Suddenly, having babies is back in fashion,” Naomi Munson noted recently in Commentary magazine. The news media aside, many people, using the evidence under their eyes, believe a second baby boom is under way. “Everyone I know is having a baby,” a 31-year-old Washington lawyer commented recently. “This is a baby year.”

Demographic conditions in the United States are uniquely primed to set off the largest baby boom in the country's history. This year, approximately 29 million women span the traditional childbearing years of ages 20 to 35. Never before has this group been so large. Ten million others in their upper teens will enter prime childbearing years during this decade. So far, however, this “mother bomb,” as it is known, has been somewhat of a dud. Comparatively few of these women have chosen to bear children, and those that have usually opted for small families. But, enhancing the growing perception that a second baby boom may be under way, a slightly higher percentage of them have decided to have babies in the past three years.

By the end of 1980, the country's fertility rate had risen 4 points above the all-time low of 65.8 in 1976. This rise in fertility is not attributed to a massive, across-the-board embracing of motherhood, but rather to women having postponed childbearing and, upon reaching their late twenties and early thirties, deciding to begin a family. In 1978, the last year for which fertility rates have been compiled by specific ages, the rate for women 30–34 rose 2.8 percent. Although figures for 1979 and 1980 are not yet available, demographers believe that this trend is continuing.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Baby Boomers
Jul. 15, 2011  Aging Population
Oct. 19, 2007  Aging Baby Boomers
Jul. 31, 1998  Baby Boomers at Midlife
Jan. 08, 1988  Baby Boom's Mid-Life Crisis
Jun. 26, 1981  Baby Boom's New Echo
Maternal and Child Health Care