CDC: US birth, fertility rates drop to record low in 2020 amid COVID pandemic

Across the country, there were only 3.6 million births in 2020 - the lowest levels since 1979.
Published: May. 6, 2021 at 10:02 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - U.S. birth and fertility rates dropped to another record low amid the pandemic, as Louisville hospitals also report fewer deliveries in 2020.

“So I think what we’re seeing is things are kind of balancing out and maybe even that unplanned action since people have been so locked in at home, has actually led to the reverse where we’re seeing less births than we would expect,” Dr. Edward Miller, UofL Health Maternal-Fetal Medicine director, said.

Miller told WAVE 3 total births for 2020 have not yet been calculated, but there could be at least 200 fewer births than normal at UofL. In a typical year, there are about 2,000 deliveries at the hospital.

Across the country, there were only 3.6 million births in 2020 according to the CDC. U.S. birth and fertility rates dropped for the sixth year to the lowest level since 1979.

Dr. Jim Beggan, a UofL sociology professor, teaches a course called Sex in the Age of Corona; he believes there are multiple ways the pandemic impacted the birthrate.

“People were so afraid, so it’s sort of an err on the side of caution. Even though [they] might have been able to do it safely, have sex with a partner, [they] might have chosen not to,” he said.

Beggan said fewer in-person interactions and the stress of economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic may have led to pregnancies and fewer births.

“You have a post-pandemic environment, financially where people are as uncertain or even more uncertain about the risk of having kids,” he said.

Dr. Karen Christopher, also a UofL sociology professor, said there could be both positive and negative impacts that result from declining birth and fertility rates.

“We’re at a historically low fertility rate, it’s the lowest it’s ever been … so we have a problem for social security, the kinds of programs that depend on younger people paying into them to keep them going,” she said.

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