Mary Margaret Olohan
United States fertility rates are at their lowest in over four decades, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics shows.
The provisional number of births in the United States in 2020 is down 4% from 2019, CDC data showed. Women in the United States gave birth to approximately 3.61 million babies in 2020, compared to about 3.75 million births in 2019.
The United States total fertility rate fell to 1.64, the lowest rate since the government began tracking such data in the 1930s, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“This is the sixth consecutive year that the number of births has declined after an increase in 2014, down an average of 2% per year, and the lowest number of births since 1979,” the CDC noted in its report.
The decrease in births is likely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in March 2020, as well as economic concerns, the WSJ reported.
“The fact that you had this coincide with the time the pandemic hit is certainly cause for suspicion,” federal statistician and demographer Dr. Hamilton told the WSJ, noting that it is too soon to understand the pandemic’s exact impact on fertility.
Social and economic shifts are likely driving fertility rates down, demographers told the WSJ, since U.S. births peaked in 2007 and then began dropping during that year’s recession.
“It’s not just COVID,” University of New Hampshire senior demographer Kenneth Johnson told the WSJ. “It’s the fact that the birthrates never recovered from the Great Recession. I’ve been waiting for years to see a big jump in fertility to women in their 30s and it hasn’t happened.”
Female millennials are now the majority of women who are having children, and researchers suggested to the WSJ that their lowered fertility rates may be attributed to the fact that millennial women are getting higher levels of education, marrying later in life, and are not as financially secure at younger ages as other generations were.
“It’s a big social change in the U.S.,” Alison Gemmill, a demographer at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studying fertility told the New York Times. “A gradual shift of family formation to later ages.”
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