The number of babies born in America last year is the lowest in more than four decades, according to federal data released Wednesday, which shows a continuing decline in fertility in the United States.
American women had about 3.61 million babies in 2020, which is 4% less than the previous year, according to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The overall fertility rate – a snapshot of the average number of babies a woman would have in her lifetime – has dropped to 1.64. This is the lowest recorded rate since the government began tracking it in the 1930s and probably before, when families were older, said report co-author Brady Hamilton. Overall births are the lowest since 1
Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March, the figures cover only a short period of the year, when the unfolding health and economic crisis could be reflected in women’s decisions to conceive. Women usually have fewer babies when the economy weakens. Fears of getting sick, arranging medical examinations and giving birth to a baby as a deadly virus have also diverted some women from pregnancy.
“The fact that you had this coincides with the time of the pandemic strike is certainly a cause for doubt,” said Dr. Hamilton, a 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 show that more fundamental social and economic changes are leading to reduced fertility. Births peaked in 2007 before declining during the recession that began this year. Although fertility usually recovers with the improving economy, births in the United States fall for all but one year, while the economy grows from 2009 to early 2020.