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Birthrates Since World War II, Baby Boom

growth of suburbs, intrauterine devices, baby-boom generation, tubal ligation, Social Security system

After World War II birthrates shot up, and by the mid-1950s were 30 percent higher than during the depths of the depression. This unprecedented upward movement in fertility levels produced a baby boom that was both a result of postwar prosperity and a reaction against the deprivations of the depression and war years. This boom helped fuel the growth of suburbs in the postwar period. The baby-boom generation had lasting effects on America. Education costs soared as this generation of children reached school age. The youth culture of the 1960s reflected, in part, the dominance of adolescent and young adult baby boomers. And recognizing that baby boomers will begin retiring in the early decades of the 21st century, the solvency of the Social Security system has become a major concern. Fertility rates declined again after the mid-1950s, although the 76 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 contributed to a second, smaller baby boom in the 1970s and 1980s as they reached adulthood and started having children of their own.

A number of changes affected fertility rates in the 1950s. Many married women who had taken temporary jobs during the crisis of World War II now sought permanent positions. As these women moved into the workforce, they demanded more effective methods of birth control. By the 1960s new forms of contraception were available, including the birth control pill, intrauterine devices, and surgical techniques for permanently inducing infertility, such as tubal ligation and vasectomy. At the end of the 20th century, 64 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 reported using birth control. Since 1957, the trend in the total birthrate has been downward.

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