The birthrate in the US fell 4 per cent last year, marking the biggest annual decrease in decades, suggesting “the coronavirus pandemic has taken the country’s already existing downward trend into overdrive”, according to authorities.
The latest provisional data released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the birthrate in 2020 dropped for the sixth consecutive year, Xinhua news agency reported.
The steepest decline occurred in the last part of the year, when the first babies conceived during the US outbreak would have been born.
Before the pandemic, American women were already having fewer children, doing it later in life or choosing to not have children at all.
The newly released data indicated a sharpening of that trend.
The US birthrate fell across races, ethnicities and almost all age groups, the CDC revealed.
Roughly 3.6 million babies were born in the US in 2020, a decline from about 3.75 million in 2019.
It is the lowest number of births since 1979 and also the largest one-year drop in births, in percentage terms, since 1965, the year the baby boom ended, Philip N. Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, was quoted as saying.
“While the pandemic may have accelerated the decline, it did not cause it; the slowdown had been ongoing for decades before the pandemic,” The Washington Post said in a report on Thursday.
Even before the pandemic’s onset, the birthrate had fallen to 1.73 births per woman, after peaking in 1957 at 3.77 births per woman.
It dipped in 1980, increased slightly a decade later and has since continued on a steady decline.
By disrupting American society in so many ways, the pandemic has led some people to hold off on plans, experts believe, with the prospect of children more daunting in the face of job losses, closed child-care centres and schools and social isolation, according to The Washington Post report.