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We Haven't Seen This on the Birth Front for 7 Years

There was a 1% increase in number of births in 2021—the first rise since 2014, per CDC report
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2022 8:44 AM CDT
Pandemic Births Not as Big a Bust as Thought: CDC
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/globalmoments)

For the first time in seven years, the US birth rate has risen—meaning predictions that the pandemic would have a more significant impact on becoming a parent went slightly off course. Americans welcomed to the world 3.66 million babies in 2021, up 1% from the previous year, according to provisional numbers from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics—the first jump since 2014, reports the Wall Street Journal. Before last year's findings, the number of births had been falling by an average of 2% a year, reports ABC News. Some other key findings:

  • Why the rise? Experts aren't sure, but they speculate that women who postponed having babies in the earlier, more uncertain days of the pandemic eventually decided to take the leap during 2021—especially older women who may have realized there was no point in waiting until the stretched-out pandemic ended.
  • Pre-pandemic comparison: Despite the increase in births over the past year, there were 86,000 fewer births in 2021 than in 2019. "We're still not returning to pre-pandemic levels," Emory University School of Medicine's Dr. Denise Jamieson tells NBC News.
  • Racial breakdown: From 2020 to 2021, white and Hispanic women saw a birth rate rise of about 2%, while Black women experienced a 2.4% dip and Asian women a 2.5% drop. American Indian and Alaska Native women saw the biggest drop, at 3.2%.

  • By age group: Women ages 25 and older saw an increase in birth rates, with those ages 35 to 39 experiencing the largest jump, at 5%. Teens ages 15 to 19 saw a 6% decrease, a rate that has fallen 77% over the past three decades or so.
  • Total fertility rate: The number of births any given 1,000 people would have over their lifetime rose very slightly to 1.66, up from 1.64 the previous year. That figure hovers below the 2,100 births per 1,000 women known as the "replacement level" (i.e., the number of births required for a population to replace itself).
  • Preterm births: This was one particular area of concern found within the report, with preterm births rising 4% last year. Report co-author Joyce Martin tells ABC it's not clear what caused that particular number to increase, though it's possible it could be tied to the rise in birth rates for older mothers.
  • Looking ahead: What could put a damper on births in 2022: inflation and worries over finding baby formula.
(Read more birth stories.)

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