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Why Are U.S. Circumcision Rates Dropping?

Reports show circumcision is dropping
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's not exactly news that the practice of circumcision has been losing its luster for years now. But as The New York Times reports, new stats are highlighting just how far the rates have dropped after all. Apparently, just 58.3 percent of baby boys in the U.S. are snipped after birth (as of 2010 data), compared to the 64.5 percent that were in 1979.

Still, that number has risen and fallen many times over the last few decades.

There was a drop in interest during the 80's when the American Academy of Pediatrics deemed the whole thing had absolutely no impact on a child's health whatsoever. Then in the 90s, when the AAP changed their tune and said it could have potential benefits, more parents resumed practice. In 1999, when the AAP clarified itself and said that yes, there were some potential benefits, but no, not enough to warrant the procedure, those rates dipped again. (You can see where we're going with this.)

So what are they saying today? The AAP's official stance is to suggest parents circumcise based on cultural and religious beliefs. Though it's probably safe to say that with the passing of time, progressive cultural shifts, and the relaxing religious ferocity of past generations, the circumcision dip is simply the result of a combo of cultural factors.

But another possible cause for the dip? A little less peer pressure, says Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. As he told Bloomberg News: “I’ve been in practice for over 40 years and there wasn’t any question about whether to circumcise in the ‘good old days’ because parents were worried about what might happen in the locker room in middle school or high school. But circumcision is less frequent in Europe and Asia, so in time as more immigration has occurred, there are more uncircumcised floating around in locker rooms, so you’re not going to get an embarrassing situation.” And while, yes, we sort of get that line of thinking, it really begs an obvious question here: Did that many parents-to-be really sit around pondering this particular scenario, 15 years before it would happen? How naked did high school boys really get in the locker room, anyway?

Not surprisingly, the varying circumcision rates are also considerably different depending on where you are in the US. As if 2010, about 71 percent of babies in the Midwest were circumcised, which is by far the highest rate in the country. Just 66.3 are snipped on the Northeast, followed by 58.4 in the South, and 40.2 in the West.

What factors influenced you the most when thinking about whether or not to circumcise?

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