August 22, 2013
U.S. Circumcision Rates Are Declining
by Nicholas Bakalar
The percentage of newborns who are circumcised in the United States declined to 58.3 percent in 2010 from 64.5 percent in 1979, according to a new analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics. The report is based on annual surveys of about 450 hospitals nationwide.
But rates varied over the period. They went down during the 1980s after a task force of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that there were no medical benefits to the procedure, then rose during the ’90s after the medical group revised its position, claiming there were potential benefits. In 1999, the A.A.P. changed its view again, stating that despite potential benefits, there was insufficient evidence to recommend routine circumcision. That announcement was followed by another slight decrease.
There are regional variations as well. In 2010, about 71 percent of babies in the Midwest were circumcised, 66.3 percent in the Northeast, 58.4 percent in the South, and 40.2 percent in the West.
The lead author of the report, Maria Owings, a health statistician with the center, emphasized that the report includes no explanation for the numbers. “We didn’t factor in any other contextual information that would shed light on the reasons for the regional variations or the variations over time,” she said. And, she added, “The N.C.H.S. doesn’t take an advocacy position.”