Drop in US Birth Rate Could Lead to 'Demographic Time Bomb'

Birth rates have fallen for the 6th year in a row, and pandemic may be helping that trend along
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2021 6:33 AM CDT
Drop in US Birth Rate Could Lead to 'Demographic Time Bomb'
There were 3,605,201 births in the US in 2020, the lowest number since 1979.   (Pexels/freestocks.org)

(Newser) – For the sixth year in a row, birth rates in the US have fallen, and, combined with a slowing down of immigration and an increasing number of deaths, it all points to a "shifting demographic picture" in America, reports the New York Times. CDC data released Wednesday shows there were 3,605,201 births in 2020, the lowest number since 1979. For the 15-44 age group, there were 55.8 live births per 1,000 women—4% lower than 2019's rate, a 19% decline since its 2007 peak, and the lowest rate since officials started keeping track in 1909, reports Live Science, which adds birth rates and births have been declining in number at about 2% per year since 2014. Teens in particular are experiencing a deep decline, with a 63% drop since 2007. Insider warns that this decline may be leading to a "demographic time bomb," with older workers not being replaced quickly enough by younger ones, which could negatively affect the economy overall.

Reuters notes that health officials aren't directly attributing the decline to the pandemic, with Live Science going so far as to say it wasn't likely that the pandemic played a big part, as most of the births in 2020 were babies conceived in 2019. The Times, however, calls the drop "early evidence" that the pandemic sped up the trend. Birth rates have historically taken a dive following times of turmoil, like after the Great Depression, and after significant events, such as when Roe vs. Wade was decided in the '70s. But those trends usually reverse, while after the Great Recession that began in late 2007, the US birth rate continued to drop. This points to "something else" going on, the Times notes. A Johns Hopkins demographer thinks that something else involves women putting off having children until their later years. "I'm feeling a little bit selfish," a 29-year-old hospital IT worker tells the paper, saying she and her friends have, for the most part, delayed becoming parents. "We are all putting it off." (Read more birth rate stories.)

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