The Decline of the U.S. Birth Rate

3 Min Read

The birth rate for the United States has declined in recent years. Researchers believe the declining birth rate in 2021 may be caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, researchers have found other factors contributing to the decline in births.

U.S. Birth Rate Hits New Low

The U.S. birth rate has shown a steady decline for years. In fact, the number of daily births in 2000 and 2019 has decreased about 0.39% each year, according to the United States Census Bureau. The birth rate fell even more between 2010 and 2019, dropping about 0.96% each year.

However, the U.S. birth rate hit a new low when it was reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 3.6 million children were born in 2020, marking a 4.06% decrease compared to 2019.

The 4.06% fall reported in 2020 also marks the sixth year in a row the U.S. birth rate has declined and is the lowest the birth rate has been since 1979, according to BBC News.

All ethnic and racial groups showed a falling percentage of live births in 2020, according to BBC News.

Racial/Ethnic GroupPercentage of Birth Rate Decline
White, Black, & Latina4%
Asian9%
Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander3%
Native American and Alaskan Native7%

In addition to a declining birth rate, the U.S. fertility rate is also experiencing a significant decrease.

A fertility rate describes the number of children a group of women would give birth to in their lifetime. The goal for the fertility rate is 2.1 to replace a generation; however, the 2020 fertility rate was below average at 1.6.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Researchers believe the global COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the U.S. birth rate.

Because COVID-19 was announced as a national emergency on March 13, 2020, many babies conceived after this date would have been due during or after the first week of December.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there was in fact a decrease in births in December 2020 and January 2021. The December 2020 birth rate marked a 7.66% decrease from the previous year, and the January 2021 birth rate showed a significant 9.41% decline from the previous year.

Despite the decline in births in December and January, there was a spike in daily births in March 2021. The number of live births in March 2020 and March 2021 was almost equal with only a 0.15% decline.

Due to the weight of the pandemic, many future mothers may have decided to wait to conceive a child.

A June 2020 study from the Guttmacher Institute found 1 in 3 American women said they wanted to delay having children or have fewer children throughout their lifetime because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another contributing factor to the declining birth rate is the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Historically, poor economic conditions cause drops in birth rates. For example, the Great Recession caused a 9% drop in U.S. births from 2007 to 2012, according to the Brookings Institute.

According to Pew Research, factors such as high unemployment rates, school/child care closures, social isolation, and overall fear of the near future may have been reasons why women are not currently having children.

The Census Bureau also reported the COVID-19 pandemic may have had an impact on mothers carrying their child to full term (40 weeks).

Factors Contributing to the Declining Birth Rate

The COVID-19 pandemic is not entirely to blame for the recent declining birth rate. According to the Census Bureau, there are several other factors affecting the U.S. birth rate.

One of these factors is the annual cycle of U.S. births. The census has found births generally
increase in the spring and summer and decline in the fall and winter. The annual cycles can greatly impact the consistency of annual birth rates.

Another contributing factor to steadily declining birth rates is the falling teen birth rate. According to a study from Pew Research, there were 16.7 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 in 2019 — a new record low. The 2019 teen birth rate was less than half the 2009 rate of 37.9 births per 1,000 teens.

In addition, the birth rate for U.S.-born and foreign-born women have dropped in recent years. Because of the decreased flow in Latin American immigration and an increased flow in Asian immigration, half of all births in 2018 were to Hispanic women, a 58% drop from 2000, according to Pew Research.

Instances of Birth Injuries & the Declining Birth Rate

Researchers continue to study the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other contributing factors causing the drop in the U.S. birth rate.

Due to the continuous decline in U.S. births, we may start to see a decrease in instances of birth injuries.

Many birth injuries are caused by doctors, nurses, and other medical staff who make mistakes during childbirth. Cases of medical negligence may become more rare as childbirth declines overall.

Despite the ups and downs of the birth rate and the uncertainty of the pandemic’s future, it is always important to ensure you and your baby are safe throughout pregnancy, during childbirth, and after delivery.

Birth Injury Support Team

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View 6 Sources
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  2. BBC. (2021, May 5). US Birth Rate Falls 4% to its lowest point ever. BBC News. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57003722
  3. Kearney, M. S., & Levine, P. B. (2021, January 7). Half a million fewer children? the coming covid baby bust. Brookings. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/half-a-million-fewer-children-the-coming-covid-baby-bust/#:~:text=The%20Great%20Recession%20led%20to,meant%20roughly%20400%2C000%20fewer%20births.
  4. Kearney, M. S., & Levine, P. B. (2021, May 24). Will births in the US rebound? probably not. Brookings. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2021/05/24/will-births-in-the-us-rebound-probably-not/
  5. Lindberg, L. D., VandeVusse, A., Mueller, J., & Kirstein, M. (2020, August 28). Early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from the 2020 guttmacher survey of reproductive health experiences. Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.guttmacher.org/report/early-impacts-covid-19-pandemic-findings-2020-guttmacher-survey-reproductive-health
  6. U.S. Census Bureau. (2021, October 8). Fewer babies born in December and January but number started to rise in March. Census.gov. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/09/united-states-births-declined-during-the-pandemic.html