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U.S. birth and fertility rates dropped to another record low in 2020, CDC says

A newborn baby is cuddled by her mother while asleep.
Tim Clayton | Corbis News | Getty Images

U.S. birth and fertility rates dropped to another record low in 2020 as births fell for the sixth consecutive year to the lowest levels since 1979, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The number of births in the U.S. declined last year by 4% from 2019, double the average annual rate of decline of 2% since 2014, the CDC said in preliminary birth data released Wednesday. Total fertility rates and general fertility rates also declined by 4% since 2019, reaching record lows. The U.S. birth rate is so low, the nation is “below replacement levels,” meaning more people die every day than are being born, the CDC said.

While the agency didn’t directly attribute the overall drop in births to the Covid-19 pandemic, it looked at birth rates among New York City women who delivered their babies outside the five boroughs during the height of the outbreak in the U.S.

Women fled the city to give birth from March through November last year, with out-of-town births among NYC residents peaking in April and May at more than 10% for both months — a more than 70% increase from the previous year. Among white women, the percentage of out-of-town births was 2.5 times higher in 2020 than 2019. Out-of-town births among Black and Hispanic women were considerably lower and only increased for two of the months last year.

Overall, the number of births declined 3% for Hispanic women and 4% for white and Black women from 2019 to 2020.

Teen birth rates dropped considerably with births to 15- to 17-year olds falling by 6% and to 18- to 19-year olds falling by 7%, both hitting record lows.

Birth rates among women aged 20 to 24 and 25 to 29 dipped by 6% and 4%, respectively, both to record lows. Birth rates fell by 4% and 2% respectively among women aged 30 to 34 and 35 to 39, but did not reach record lows, according to CDC data.

Birth rates for women aged 40 fell 44 fell by 2% from 2019, but birth rates for women aged 45 and up remined unchanged. according to the CDC.

The data was based on population estimates derived from the 2010 census as of July 1 as well as counts of all birth records received and processed by the National Center for Health Statistics as of Feb. 11. The records represent nearly 100% of registered births occurring in 2020.

Some experts say that a decline in birth rates could represent a lack of vital resources like housing and food among those demographics, with correlations between the rise in unemployment rates and the decline in birth rates. Still, the future economic impact of a decline in birth rates is still debated.

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