Male Births Declining in the U.S.

135,000 Fewer White Males Born During Past 30 Years

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 11, 2007

April 11, 2007 -- The number of male babies born in the U.S. is dropping and has been on a steady decline for the last three decades, according to a new study.

Researchers found the decline in male births is equivalent to 135,000 fewer white males in the last 30 years in the U.S.

They say the reason for the decrease is unclear, but environmental factors coupled with the rising age of parents giving birth may be playing a role.

“We know that men who work with some solvents, metals, and pesticides father fewer baby boys. We also know that nutritional factors, physical health, and chemical exposures of pregnant women affect their ability to have children and the health of their offspring,” says Devra Lee Davis, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s Center for Environmental Oncology, in a news release. “We suspect that some combination of these factors, along with older age of parents, may account for decreasing male births.”

In the study, researchers analyzed birth statistics in the U.S. from 1970 to 2002 and in Japan from 1970 to 1999. The results appear in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

The results showed an overall decline of 17 males per 10,000 births in the U.S. and 37 males per 10,000 births in Japan during the study period. But the decline was only evident among white males in the U.S. and not among blacks.

Researchers found the number of black male births has increased slowly over the last three decades, but the ratio of male-to-female births among blacks remains lower than that of whites. In addition, blacks have a higher fetal mortality rate, and male black babies are more likely to die than females.

“Given the higher mortality rates for African-American males in the United States, these results re-emphasize the need to determine all factors, including environmental contaminants, which are responsible for this continuing health disparity,” researcher Lovell A. Jones, PhD, director of the Center for Research on Minority Health at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, says in the release.

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SOURCES: Davis, D. Environmental Health Perspectives, April, 9 2007. News release, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

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