December 9, 2021

US birth rate is the lowest since records began

For mothers of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly every age group.

The birth rate in the United States fell 4% in 2020. It was the largest single-year decrease in nearly 50 years, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate dropped for mothers of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly every age group. It has declined to the lowest point recorded in US history.

Amongst younger women, births have been declining for years, because of postponed motherhood and smaller families. But that was partially offset by slightly higher birth rates for women in their late 30s and in their 40s. But not in the year of Covid-19.

“The fact that you saw declines in births even for older moms is quite striking,” said Brady Hamilton, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anxiety about Covid-19 and its impact on the economy probably caused many couples to defer having children. But many of the 2020 pregnancies began well before the pandemic.

Some other take-aways from the report are:

  • The provisional number of births was 3,605,201, down 4% from 2019. This is the sixth consecutive year that the number of births has declined after an increase in 2014, and the lowest number of births since 1979.
  • The total fertility rate in 2020 was below replacement—the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself, 2.1. The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and has consistently been below replacement since 2007.
  • The provisional birth rate for teenagers in 2020 was 15.3 births per 1,000 females aged 15–19. This was down 8% from 2019, reaching another record low for this age group. The rate has declined by 63% since 2007, the most recent period of continued decline, and 75% since 1991, the most recent peak.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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