The number of babies born in America last year was the lowest in more than four decades, according to federal figures released Wednesday that show continued decline in fertility in the United States.
American women had an estimated 3.61 million babies in 2020, down 4% from the previous year, according to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total fertility rate – a snapshot of the average number of babies a woman would have in her lifetime – fell to 1.64. It was the lowest rate on record since the government started tracking it in the 1930s, and possibly before that, when families were larger, said report co-author Brady Hamilton. The total number of births was the lowest since 1979.
“The fact that this coincides with when the pandemic struck is certainly a matter of suspicion,” said Dr. Hamilton, federal statistician and demographer. He added that it was too early to assess the exact impact of the pandemic on fertility.
Demographers say the data suggests more fundamental social and economic changes are lowering fertility. Births peaked in 2007 before plunging during the recession that began that year. Although fertility generally rebounds alongside an improving economy, births in the United States have fallen in every year but one, as the economy grew from 2009 to early 2020.
“It’s not just Covid. It’s the fact that birth rates have never recovered from the Great Recession, ”said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire. “I have been waiting for years to see a surge in fertility in women in their 30s and it has not happened.”
Professor Johnson estimates that about 7.6 million fewer babies have been born due to declining fertility rates since 2007. He said interim monthly data released separately from the CDC showed births had declined by about 7.7% in December. This shows a decline that was already underway before the pandemic and which accelerated once the pandemic took hold.
Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, now represent the majority of women with children. In seeking to explain their lower fertility rates, the researchers highlighted the fact that they marry later in life, achieve higher levels of education, and are less financially secure than previous generations when they were able. same age.
Provisional birth rates fell for all women aged 15 to 44 last year. This included women aged 40 to 44, whose birth rate fell by 2%. The rate for this age group had increased almost continuously from 1985 to 2019, averaging 3% per year.
The steepest declines in fertility in 2020 were seen in women in their late teens and early twenties. Since its peak in 1991, the teenage birth rate has fallen by 75%.
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Fertility rates in the United States remain higher than those of many other developed countries that have long struggled with low birth rates, such as Japan, Italy and Germany. “We’re heading towards that, but we haven’t quite hit the mid-range of all European countries,” Dr Hamilton said.
Kayla Knott, 34, and her husband, Harrison Knott, had planned to start trying for a third child in 2020. The couple Willow Spring, North Carolina, were already concerned that the 2020 election could affect the cost of care health, she said. Then the pandemic struck and a third child seemed too risky. Ms Knott quit her side job cleaning houses and focused on caring for her 4 and 2 year old sons.
“We didn’t want to put another person in an extremely dangerous situation,” Ms. Knott said. At first, they ran out of disposable diapers for their youngest son and couldn’t find them in stores or online. A friend told her she had to choose between having her mother, who is a doctor, or her husband with her as she gives birth in the first weeks of the pandemic.
“We were concerned about the income and only the food shortage and the diaper shortage,” Ms. Knott said. “When the diapers ran out and we put cloth diapers on our little one, we thought, ‘This is a very good reason not to have children right now.’ “
Ms Knott said that with the return to normalcy of daily life, the couple are reconsidering trying to have a baby. Yet she remains hesitant because no Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for young children. “We are vaccinated but our children are still vulnerable,” she said.
Write to Janet Adamy at [email protected]
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