Data shows a “substantial” decline in birth rates during the coronavirus pandemic, compounding the already existing problem of overall declining birth rates in America.
December 2020 birth rates were significantly lower compared to the same month in 2019, according to data that NCBLX collected from several hospital systems and states that track births in real-time. December births in Florida declined by 8% compared to 2019, births in Ohio declined by 7%, and births in Arizona declined by 5%.
Babies who were conceived in March of 2020, when the most restrictive social distancing measures were put into place, would be born around December. Instead of the coronavirus baby-boom that some had predicted, data shows that fewer couples were having children.
“This is a bad situation,” University of Maryland sociologist and demographer Philip Cohen said, according to NCBLX. “The declines we’re seeing now are… pretty substantial.”
Cohen’s research found that 34% of women ages 18 – 49 wanted to delay having children or have fewer children during the pandemic. Google searches for contraception, pregnancy, marriage, and topics related to sex were all significantly lower than searches for the same topic between 2016 and 2019.
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The number of marriages also declined in several states during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Cohen’s research. Compared to 2019, the number of marriages in Florida and Hawaii declined. The number of marriage license applications in Seattle also declined.
Cohen said that part of the reason fewer babies are being born is that coronavirus shut down bars and other social gatherings, which likely reduced casual sex and unplanned pregnancies. Uncertainty about the future during the pandemic also made women wary about having children.
“People make long-term decisions when they have confidence about the future, and if there’s anything that undermines confidence about the future, it’s this massive pandemic,” Cohen told NBCLX.
School closures and the added stress from working from home with children could discourage existing families from having more children, the authors of a Brookings report suggested.
Birth rates had already been declining before the pandemic. In 2017, birth rates hit a 30-year low, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of babies being born again hit record lows in 2019, which had the lowest birth rate in 35 years.
“One of the reasons we have falling birth rates is because women are deciding to spend less a percentage of their total lives raising children,” Cohen told NBCLX. “So they have one or two children instead of three or four children. And they do a lot of other things in their lives…which is great for reducing gender inequality. [But] it comes with some challenges.”
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