US birth rate sees biggest fall for nearly 50 years | US news

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:

  • About 3.6 million babies were born in the US last year, down from about 3.75 million in 2019. When births were booming in 2007, the US recorded 4.3 million births.

  • The US birth rate dropped to about 56 births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, the lowest rate on record. The rate is half of what it was in the early 1960s.

  • The birth rate for 15 to 19-year-olds dropped 8% from 2019. It has fallen almost every year since 1991.

  • Birth rates fell 8% for Asian-American women; 3% for Hispanic women; 4% for Black and white women; and 6% for mothers who were American Indians or Alaska Natives.

  • The caesarean delivery rate rose slightly to about 32%. It had generally been declining since 2009.

  • The percentage of infants born small and premature – at less less than 37 weeks of gestation – fell slightly to 10% after rising five years in a row.

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