Despite predictions of a pandemic baby boom, recent data suggests that the United States and the rest of the world might actually experience a drop in fertility over the coming years.
Provisional data suggests that the US birth rate dropped by 4% in 2020. Statistics from December 2020 – the month when babies conceived at the start of the pandemic would have been born – shows a surprising 8% decline compared to December 2019.
Even before the pandemic began, the general fertility rate across the US was already at a record low. In 2019, there were 58.3 births for every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, down from 59.1 in 2018. This made 2019 the fifth consecutive year in which the US fertility rate declined.
It has been suggested that a number of factors have driven down the fertility rate.
1. A decline in birth rates among younger women
Both in the US and in other countries, data shows that more and more women are choosing to have children later in life. The median age when women become mothers in the US rose to 26 in 2016, up from 23 in 1994.
2. Declining teen birth rates
The teen birth rate in the US hit a record low in 2019, with just 16.7 births per 1,000 females aged between 15 and 19. In contrast, 2009 saw 37.9 teen births per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds. The teen birth rate has fallen across all major racial and ethnic groups, but it remains higher among Hispanic and Black teenagers.
3. Lasting effects from the 2008 recession
The year 2007 marked 4,316,233 births in the US – a record high. However, 2008 saw the beginning of a sharp decline in the US fertility rate. The states experiencing the steepest economic declines were also most likely to experience large fertility declines from 2008 to 2009.
Early estimates show that there could also be 300,000 fewer births in the US in 2021, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and the associated economic effects of the pandemic.
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