WASHINGTON — The nation's fertility rate dipped to a new low last year, with fewer than 65 births recorded per 1,000 women of childbearing age, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
The 1986 general fertility rate was 64.9, meaning there were 64.9 live births for every 1,000 women age 15 to 44.
Fertility "seems relatively stable now at a low level. The baby boom is over and . . . there is no particular reason to expect, in the near future, a turnup," said Donald E. Starsinic, chief of the Population Estimates Branch at the bureau.
"People are concerned with the quality of life, and if they have to choose between having more children and maintaining the life they have experienced, I expect they will go toward quality of life," Starsinic said.
Child Care Suggested
The one factor that could help boost fertility, he suggested, would be if the United States "develops a national child-care system that is a lot better than what we have now. But that is expensive, and who is going to pay for it?"
The delay in marriage and childbearing by young people pursuing education and careers also has been widely reported and has an effect in reducing fertility by postponing children, he said.
"To some extent it's (low fertility) a postponement, but I can't believe . . . that the level from a couple decades ago will return. It isn't likely to happen; it's dropped off too much," Starsinic said.
The 1986 general fertility rate was slightly below the 65 rate posted in 1976 and was the lowest in records going back to 1930.
The general fertility rate peaked in 1957 at 122.7 births per 1,000 women in the 15-44 age group. That was the top year of the post-World War II baby boom, the record year for births in the United States with the arrival of 4,322,000 babies.
Last year, there were 3,687,000 births in the United States, down from 3,750,000 in 1985.