The U.S. fertility rate fell to a record low in 2020, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
The total fertility rate, or the number of babies a woman is projected to have during her lifetime, fell to 1.64 in 2020, the lowest since tracking began in the 1930s. The total number of births was about 3.6 million, the lowest since 1979.
Births declined in December 2020 by 8 percent compared with the same month in 2019, the largest drop of any month. Because babies born towards the end of the year were conceived in March and April, the decline could reflect the results of the coronavirus pandemic arriving in the U.S.
“The fact that you had this coincide with the time the pandemic hit is certainly cause for suspicion,” Dr. Brady Hamilton, a co-author of the CDC report on births, told the Wall Street Journal.
However, the declining number of births also reflects larger societal trends. The number of total births peaked in 2007 and has steadily declined since.
“It’s not just Covid. It’s the fact that the birthrates never recovered from the Great Recession,” Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, told reporters.
“At some point the question is going to be: The women who delayed having babies, are they ever going to have them?” Johnson added. “If they don’t, that’s a permanent notch in the American births structure.”
Numbers of births declined in 2020 among women of all age groups, except those in their early teens and late 40s. The average child-bearing age for American women was 27 last year, up from 23 in 2010.