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Two recently released reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the birth rate for women of child bearing age in 2010 was only slightly lower than the birth rate for that same age group of women at the height of the Great Depression in 1935. Indicators suggest that a struggling economy, no matter what the century, influences family size.

Census data from 2010 shows that 18.8 percent of women ages 40-44 were childless. Of 100,000 women born in 1910 who turned 25 in 1935 at the height of the Great Depression, 19.7 percent were childless by age 50.

Surprisingly, it was only a few years ago, in 2007, that the U.S. reached a record number of total births in one year, 4.3 million. That number dropped 7 percent to 4 million in 2010.

“The longer this goes on, the more likely it is to lead to a prolonged shift in fertility,” says Mark Mather of the non-profit Population Reference Bureau.

In decades past, Catholics were often identified by their large families, but for many societal reasons, including the economic downturn, family sizes have decreased for Catholics and non-Catholics. As a current (or future) mother or father, does the present economic situation influence your plans for children in the future? Do you think the economy will lead to a “prolonged shift in fertility” as Mather predicts?

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