(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. birth rate dropped last year to the lowest level since record keeping began in the 1920s, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
According to preliminary data, only 63 babies were born in 2011 for every 1,000 women of child bearing age (15 to 44). By comparison, the highest level was in 1957 when 122 babies were born for every 1,000 women.
"It is very striking that the birth rate is the lowest on record. It's hard to know whether this trend will continue into the future. History tells us that it probably won't. But it may be that we are seeing the new normal," says the report's co-author, D'Vera Cohn.
Between 2007 and 2010, Pew says the overall birth rate tumbled 8 percent. While the rate of U.S.-born women during this time period fell 6 percent, the most striking decline was among immigrant women, Cohn says.
"They're down 14 percent which is more than double the decrease in the birth rate for women who are born in the United States," she notes.
The reason for the overall decline is closely linked to the recession, Cohn says.
"It really appears to have linked to the recession. We've done some research and looked into the link between birth declines and bad economic times and there's a pretty strong association," she says.
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