The birth rate in 2000 (preliminary data) was 14.8 births per 1000 population, an increase of 2% from 1999 (14.5). The fertility rate, births per 1000 women aged 15 to 44 years, increased 3% to 67.6 in 2000, compared with 65.9 in 1999. The 2000 increases in births and the fertility rate were the third consecutive yearly increases, the largest in many years, halting the steady decline in the number of births and fertility rates in the 1990s.
Fertility rates for total white, non-Hispanic white, black, and Native American women each increased about 2% in 2000. The fertility rate for black women, which declined 19% from 1990 to 1996, has changed little since 1996. The rate for Hispanic women rose 4% in 2000 to reach the highest level since 1993. Birth rates for women 30 years or older continued to increase. The proportion of births to unmarried women remained about the same at one third, but the number of births rose 3%.
The birth rate for teen mothers declined again for the ninth consecutive year. The use of timely prenatal care (83.2%) remained unchanged in 2000, and was essentially unchanged for non-Hispanic white (88.5%), black (74.2%), and Hispanic (74.4%) mothers.
The number and rate of multiple births continued their dramatic rise, but all of the increase was confined to twins; for the first time in more than a decade, the number of triplet and higher-order multiple births declined (4%) between 1998 and 1999 (multiple birth information is not available in preliminary 2000 data). The overall increases in multiple births account, in part, for the lack of improvement in the percentage of low birth weight (LBW) births. LBW remained at 7.6% in 2000.
The infant mortality rate (IMR) dropped to 6.9 per 1000 live births (preliminary data) in 2000 (the rate was 7.1 in 1999). The ratio of the IMR among black infants to that for white infants was 2.5 in 2000, the same as in 1999. Racial differences in infant mortality remain a major public health concern. The role of low birth weight in infant mortality remains a major issue. Among all of the states, Utah and Maine had the lowest IMRs. State-by-state differences in IMR reflect racial composition, the percentage LBW, and birth weight-specific neonatal mortality rates for each state. The United States continues to rank poorly in international comparisons of infant mortality.
Expectation of life at birth reached a record high of 76.9 years for all gender and race groups combined. Death rates in the United States continue to decline. The age-adjusted death rate for suicide declined 4% between 1999 and 2000; homicide declined 7%. Death rates for children 19 years of age or less declined for 3 of the 5 leading causes in 2000; cancer and suicide levels did not change for children as a group. A large proportion of childhood deaths, however, continue to occur as a result of preventable injuries.