US birth rate hits lowest level since 1979 amid pandemic stress

The birth rate in the United States fell 4 percent in 2020 to about 3.6 million babies, its sixth-straight annual decline and the lowest since 1979, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not attribute the overall decline in the birth rate to the COVID-19 pandemic, but experts have predicted that pandemic-led reasons, including anxiety, will have an effect on it [File: Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters]
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not attribute the overall decline in the birth rate to the COVID-19 pandemic, but experts have predicted that pandemic-led reasons, including anxiety, will have an effect on it [File: Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters]

People in the United States had the lowest number of babies in more than 40 years last year, mirroring a slump in European birth rates, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced more people to take care of sick family members or deal with job losses.

The birth rate in the United States fell 4 percent in 2020 to about 3.6 million babies, its sixth-straight annual decline and the lowest since 1979, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday.

The CDC did not attribute the overall decline to the pandemic but experts have predicted that pandemic-led reasons including anxiety will hit the country’s birth rate.

“The recent decline in birth rates reflects both a longer-term downward trend in birth rates that was apparent prior to the pandemic and pandemic-related reduction,” said Lorna Thorpe, director of epidemiology at the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone in New York City.

In general, US fertility rates have dropped over the years as women marry late and delay motherhood,  especially in years when the economy has slowed.

Older data from Population Reference Bureau, a non-profit statistics collector, showed the US birth rate reached an all-time low in 1936 following the 1929 stock market crash.

It once again took a hit through the 1970s in the wake of big social changes, including the landmark Roe vs Wade case that legalised abortion.

Many European countries have also seen a decline in births and demographics experts have forecast a baby bust across the continent this year.

In Italy, nine months after the country went into Europe’s first lockdown, births plunged 22 percent in December. Blaming lower birth rates, big corporations including Reckitt, Nestle and Danone have posted a drop in sales of baby formula.

The CDC said the fertility rate in the US, which measures the number of births per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44, declined by 4 percent in 2020.

This provisional data is based on 99.87 percent of all birth records registered and processed last year by the National Center for Health Statistics as of February 11.

Source: Reuters

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