Nine months after the declaration of a national emergency due to the emergence of the covid-19 pandemic, births in the United States fell 8% in one month.
The fall in December marked an acceleration of the declines in the second half of the year. For the full year, the number of babies born in the country fell 4% to about 3.6 million, the biggest drop since 1973, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC , for its acronym in English).
The most recent data is early proof of the drastic impact of the health crisis on birth rates, with the full effect expected to show up in the 2021 data.
Last year saw a sharp increase in the number of states where deaths now outnumber births.
“In 2019, five states had more deaths than births. The most in American history up to that point,” said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy and professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. “In 2020, 25 states had more deaths than births. The decline has continued into early 2021”.
In general, births have been declining in the years after the Great Depression, as Americans have married later and have put off having children. This has been accentuated during the pandemic, as people feared going to hospitals and lacked close family support due to confinement restrictions.
The cost of child care is also rising, reducing the already tight budgets of millions of Americans who remain out of work.
December’s declines were led by states like California, which saw a 19% drop that month. In the second half of the year, New Mexico, New York, Hawaii and West Virginia also posted substantial declines, ranging from 8% to 11%.
Along with the more than half a million Americans who have died from COVID-19, the drop in births will have long-term consequences for population growth.
By race, the fall in births in December was most evident among Asian mothers, down 19% from the same period in 2019. Births to blacks and Hispanics declined by roughly half that rate, while births to White mothers registered a 6% drop.