The recovery from the recession that began in 2007 is often expressed in terms of jobs lost, jobs created, salaries, home values and the stock market. Maybe we should be talking about the recovery in terms of something warmer and more human: babies.
For the first time since 2007, the number of babies born in the United States actually rose, although the birthrate again declined slightly.
The federal government says 2013's total of 3,957,577 births exceeded the 2012 total by 4,736. Experts blamed the previous downward trend, which saw annual births drop from more than 4.3 million a year to less than 4 million, mainly on the nation's economy. Many people, facing money troubles and a terrible job market, could not afford to start or add to their families.
But this recession wasn't just bad in terms of family incomes. For many, it also brought tremendous uncertainty about the future. It's not just that times were bad. A lot of people began to fear the times would never get much better, and that all we had to look forward to was a less-rosy future of low employment and stagnant wages.
But the economy is getting better, albeit slowly. The increase in newborns is a sign of that. And there's more good news: Even as the overall number of babies born rose, the teen birthrate plummeted another 10 percent from 2012's already historic lows.
The birthrate for women in their 20s also declined to record lows, while the rate for women in their 30s rose. And for women 40 to 44, the birthrate was the highest since 1966.
There's nothing more hopeful than the decision to have babies, particularly when it's full-grown adults making the decision. Perhaps this incremental rise in newborns, like the increases we've seen in jobs and home values, is a sign that more than economic vitality is returning. Perhaps hope and faith in the future are returning, too.