Call it the "baby bust." For the fourth straight year, birth rates in the United States have declined.

Slightly fewer than four million babies were born in the U.S. in 2011, the lowest total since 1998. However, the 1 percent drop in the birth rate was less than it had been in the previous three years. This suggests that the economic pressure experts believe is depressing the birth rate may be easing up.

The decline was particularly pronounced in births to Hispanic women (down 6 percent), single women (down 3 percent) and teen mothers (down 8 percent).

The overall birth rate is expected to remain at about 1.9 children per woman. A country with a birth rate of less than two children per women risks population decline.

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