Hear the boom? It's the combined roar of crying, gurgling and the squeak of baby-stroller wheels in the nation's new baby boom, which continued in earnest last year.
The estimated 4,179,000 births in 1990 were the most in nearly 30 years. Only at the postwar baby boom's peak, between 1956 and 1961, were the number of births in this nation ever higher, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
"They may have to reopen some schools . . . the ones that they closed in the 80s," says Stephanie J. Ventura, a demographer with the center, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As the 1950s baby boomers who postponed having babies began to have children, the number of births began a steady climb in 1986, and those babies are just beginning to enter school, Ventura says.
Birth totals, which were reported in the center's latest Vital Statistics Report and are subject to revision, increased in nearly every state in 1990 compared with 1989.
Nationally, the number of births was up 4 percent from the 1989 total of 4,021,000.
Much of the increase was from older mothers who had postponed starting a family because of careers or other reasons, Ventura says.
Details on recent birth totals were not available. But in 1988, 28 percent of all births were to mothers between 30 and 49 years old, compared with 18 percent in 1970. About 17 percent of all women having their first child were in that age group in 1988, compared with only 4 percent in 1970.
"That shows a big shift to older ages," she says.
The new baby boom "may start to level off" because the number of women under age 25 is declining, she says. Last year's birth rate of 16.7 -- the number of births per thousand people -- was the highest since 1971. But it still was far from the postwar baby-boom high of more than 25 births per thousand.
Will the current recession muffle the latest baby boom? "You have a little bit of lag" in how fast people react to hard times, Ventura says, "nine months, at least."