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U.S. Births Down for Fourth Straight Year

The weak economy is a major reason why the U.S. birth rate fell for the fourth year in a row in 2011, according to experts.

The federal government said Wednesday that there were fewer than four million births last year, which is the lowest number since 1998. But that 1 percent decline in births in 2011 was less steep than the drops of 2 to 3 percent that occurred in other recent years, the Associated Pressreported.

Many experts believe that the struggling economy is the main cause of declining births. They explain that people who are unemployed, underemployed or have other money problems can't afford to have children.

The government said there was a new low in teen births and steep declines in Hispanic birth rates in 2011. Teen birth rates have been falling for 20 years and experts say that Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, the APreported.