The US birth rate fell by 4 percent last year, the largest single-year drop since the late-1970s, according to new provisional data released by the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday.
All in all, last year saw the lowest number of births since 1979. The CDC statistics suggest that there were 3,605,201 births in the US during 2020, down 4 percent from the number in 2019, which was 3,747,540 births. Birth fell across the board with declines being seen in all age groups, ethnicities, and races.
Similar trends of slipping birth rates during 2020 have been previously noticed elsewhere in the world, including the UK, France, and Spain.
Generally speaking, birth rates in the US have been tanking in recent years, but it’s safe to say the past year’s declines have been given an extra boost from the fallout of COVID-19. Some previously suggest that 2020 could see the beginning of a COVID-19 "baby boom" due to more people spending time at home with plenty of time on their hands. However, as other early forecasts suggested, it actually looks like we could be seeing a cusp of a “baby bust” as the hardships of the pandemic continue to disrupt peoples' lives.
The Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank in Washington DC, predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead to "a large, lasting baby bust” back in June 2020. They initially suggested the public health crisis and subsequent recession would result in 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births in 2021, but later updated this prediction in light of new information and estimated the drop in births will be closer to 300,000 fewer newborns.
Their predictions were primarily based on the economic uncertainty, rising debt, and turbulent labor markets — factors that are closely linked to a populations' birth rate — associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, but delayed IVF treatments are also thought to play a role. Mental health and wellbeing also took a plunge during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic as many people were faced with social isolation, inability to access healthcare, economic hardship, and so on. Furthermore, some analysis has suggested that many people, including couples who lived together, experienced a decline in their sex lives over the past year.
Once the worst of the pandemic is over, will birth rates spring back? Some experts have predicted that the post-pandemic planet will see a joyous resurgence of socializing, culture, and sexual licentiousness. With this in mind, we might expect to see some positive changes in the birth rate. However, it appears unlikely that this brief celebratory blip will detract from the wider pattern of declining birth rates. In a few decades, the world is set to see the first decline in the global population in centuries. Many places, notably Europe and North America, are already contributing towards this downwards trajectory with birth rates are currently on the fall or remain steady.