Utah births highest in country, but declining

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Fewer babies have been born in Utah each of the past four years.

New data from the Utah Department of Health shows that about 1,000 fewer babies were born in 2011 than in 2010. That marks the first time there has been a decline four straight years since the 1980s.

The 51,144 babies born in 2011 in Utah last year were the fewest since 2004. The peak was 2007-2008 when 55,000 babies were born each year in Utah.

Utah still has one of the nation's highest birth rates despite the slowdown.

Officials at Intermountain Healthcare believe the decrease is due to the economic downturn. About 60 percent of the state's babies are born at Intermountain hospitals.

"There could be a variety of reasons: job security, financial status," Intermountain Healthcare spokesman Daron Cowley said. "Looking at data over past few years it's definitely tied to the economy."

Utah County has state's highest birth rate. The largest city and county seat in that county is Provo, home of Brigham Young University. BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cache County in northern Utah and Duchense and Uintah counties in northeastern Utah come in just slightly behind Utah County for the highest birth rates.

Summit County has the lowest birth rate among counties with at least 25,000 people, state data shows. Summit County is home to the Park City ski resorts, where several of the 2002 Winter Olympics events were held.

Utah had the highest birth rate in the country in 2009 and it wasn't even close, U.S. Census data shows. The three-year-old data is the latest available comparing state's birth rates.

Utah had 19.4 births per 1,000 people in 2009 — well ahead of second-place Alaska and Texas, which had birth rates of 16.2. The national average was 13.5.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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