The birth rate in the United States fell by 4% in the biggest one-year decline in nearly 50 years, according to a government report.
The percentage has dropped for mothers of all major races and ethnicities and has fallen to its lowest point in almost any age group since federal health officials began tracking it more than a century ago, the report, which is due to be published in Wednesday
The birth rate for women in the late 1930s and 1940s increased, but this trend slowed down last year.
The United States was once one of the few developed countries to have a fertility rate of more than 2.1 children per woman, which ensured that each generation had enough children to replace them.
But the percentage has been sliding for more than 10 years, dropping to about 1.6 last year, the lowest recorded rate.
“The fact that you have seen a decline in birth rates, even in older mothers, is quite striking,” said lead author Brady Hamilton of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The figures show that the current generation will not have enough children to replace them.
The CDC report is based on a review of more than 99% of birth certificates issued last year. The findings reflect a recent analysis by the Associated Press of 2020 data from 25 countries showing that births fell during the coronavirus outbreak.
The pandemic is contributing to last year’s sharp decline, experts said. Concerns about Covid-19 and its impact on the economy have probably led many couples to think it’s not the right time to have a baby.
But many pregnancies in 2020 began long before the US epidemic. CDC researchers are working on a follow-up report to better analyze how the downturn has developed, Hamilton said.
Other highlights of the CDC report include:
About 3.6 million babies were born in the United States last year, compared to about 3.75 million in 2019. When births rose in 2007, the United States registered 4.3 million births.
The birth rate in the United States has dropped to about 56 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age, the lowest reported rate. The speed is half of what it was in the early 60’s.
The birth rate of 15 to 19-year-olds has fallen by 8% since 2019. It has been falling almost every year since 1991.
Birth rates have dropped by 8% for Asian-American women; 3% for Spanish women; 4% for black and white women; and 6% for mothers who were Native Americans or Alaska Natives.
Cesarean section has increased slightly to about 32%. It has usually been declining since 2009.
The percentage of newborns born small and premature – at less than 37 weeks of gestation – has fallen slightly to 10% after an increase of five consecutive years.