Birthrate in US hits new low point

Experts expect anxiety over pandemic a factor

- Mike Stobbe The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsibl­e for all content.

NEW YORK – The U.S. birthrate fell 4% last year, the largest single-year decrease in nearly 50 years, a government report said Wednesday.

The rate dropped for moms of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly every age group, falling to the lowest point since federal health officials started tracking it more than a century ago.

Births have been declining in younger women for years as many postponed motherhood and had smaller families.

Birthrates for women in their late 30s and in their 40s have been inching up. But not last year.

“The fact that you saw declines in births even for older moms is quite striking,” said Brady Hamilton of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead author of the report.

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 pandemic.

The pandemic no doubt contribute­d to last year’s big decline, experts say. Anxiety about COVID-19 and the economy probably caused many couples to rethink parenthood.

But many of the 2020 pregnancie­s began well before the epidemic. Other highlights from the report:

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

h The U.S. birthrate 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.

h The birthrate for 15- to 19-yearolds dropped 8% from 2019. It has fallen almost every year since 1991.

h Birthrates fell 8% for Asian American women; 3% for Hispanic women; 4% for Black and white women; and 6% for women who were American Indians or Alaska Natives.

h The cesarean delivery rate rose, slightly, to about 32%. It had generally been declining since 2009.

The U.S. once was among only a few developed countries with a fertility rate that ensured each generation had enough children to replace it. About a dozen years ago, the estimated rate was 2.1 kids per U.S. woman. But it has been sliding, and last year it dropped to 1.6, the lowest rate on record.

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