The U.S. birth rate fell for the sixth year in a row in 2020, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reported Wednesday, reaching the lowest point since official records began over 100 years ago, dispelling once and for all speculation that the Covid-19 pandemic could fuel a “baby boom.”
The U.S. birth rate fell by 4% in 2020, double the average yearly decline since 2014, according to data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Birth rates for mothers aged between 15 and 24 fell by roughly 6%, reaching record lows, while birth rates for those 45 and up did not change.
Fertility rates in the U.S. also fell by 4% over the same time period, the report shows, reaching a “record low for the nation.”
The drop in fertility puts the U.S. even further below replacement levels—the amount of births needed for a generation to replace itself—which it has generally been below since 1971.
The CDC, which based its findings on a review of nearly all birth certificates issued in 2020 and data from the 2010 census, did not speculate on what caused the significant drop, though the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic uncertainty is likely to have played a significant role.
3.6 million. This is roughly how many babies were born in the U.S. in 2020, the lowest number of births since 1979.
Towards the start of the pandemic, many speculated lockdown conditions could spur on a baby boom. Part of this was joking about being confined to close quarters with nothing to do, the other based on the spike in births sometimes witnessed nine months after a disaster occurs. As the year went on, many began to abandon ideas of a baby boom, with evidence mounting that a baby bust could be on the horizon as families delayed plans to have children for more stable times.
While many rich countries are continuing to see a decline in birth rates, the pandemic has interrupted many projects around the world intended to provide contraception, abortion and access to maternal care. A lack of supplies, or disruptions in deliveries, and disruption to services prevented many women from accessing family planning services, the United Nations Population Fund reported. The group estimated that as many as 23 million women in low and middle income countries may not have been able to access family planning services during the first year of the pandemic, potentially resulting in 2.7 million unintended pregnancies. Some countries, such as Indonesia, are preparing for a baby boom as coronavirus restrictions hinder access to contraceptives.