The US birth rate has fallen 4% in the largest single-year drop in nearly 50 years, according to a government report.
The rate dropped for mothers of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly all age groups, falling to the lowest point since federal health officials started tracking it more than a century ago, the report due to be published on Wednesday said.
Births have been declining in younger women for years, as many postponed motherhood and had smaller families.
Birth rates for women in their late 30s and in their 40s have been inching up. But not last year.
The US once was among only a few developed countries with a fertility rate above the 2.1 children per woman that ensured each generation had enough children to replace itself.
But the rate has been sliding for more than 10 years and last year dropped to about 1.6, the lowest rate on record.
“The fact that you saw declines in births even for older moms is quite striking,” said lead author of the report, Brady Hamilton, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The figures suggest that the current generation will not have enough children to replace itself.
The CDC report is based on a review of more than 99% of birth certificates issued last year. The findings echo a recent Associated Press analysis of 2020 data from 25 states showing that births had fallen during the coronavirus outbreak.
The pandemic contribute to last year’s big decline, experts said. Anxiety about Covid-19 and its impact on the economy likely caused many couples to think that it was not the right time to have a baby.
But many of the 2020 pregnancies began well before the US epidemic. CDC researchers are working on a follow-up report to better parse out how the decline unfolded, Hamilton said.
Other highlights from the CDC report include: