In what’s probably one of the least surprising headlines you’ll see this year, the Associated Press is reporting that America’s birthrate continued to decline in 2019. The CDC is saying that the number of births last year declined roughly 1% from 2018 levels. That translates to about 3.7 million births. In a bit of good news, however, unintended pregnancies among teenagers also continued to fall. What may come as surprise to at least some people is the projection that we shouldn’t expect to see a reversal in these trends in 2020 because of the pandemic and the lockdowns. In fact, the birth rate may well wind up declining even faster.
U.S. births continued to fall last year, leading to the fewest number of newborns in 35 years.
The decline is the latest sign of a prolonged national “baby bust” that’s been going on for more than a decade. And some experts believe the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy will suppress the numbers further.
“This unpredictable environment, and anxiety about the future, is going to make women think twice about having children,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University.
The idea that there won’t be more babies coming into the world this fall may seem counterintuitive at first. After all, with so many people out of work and stuck at home, what else do couples have to take up their time? I mean, there’s only so many things available to binge on Netflix, right?
Perhaps, but there are a lot of other factors at play here. This isn’t the same as some sort of blizzard where everyone is stuck in their houses with the power going out. In those situations, you know the snow is going to melt sooner or later and unless your roof collapses, things are going to quickly return to normal. The pandemic, on the other hand, has people stressing out, exhibiting symptoms of depression, and filled with anxiety over whether their jobs will come back or if they’ll even survive the spread of the disease. That’s generally not a formula for putting people in a romantic mood.
Some of those same concerns about the future are likely also playing a role in family planning. Bringing a baby into the world when you don’t know if you’ll be able to afford to raise a child has to be a factor. With easy access to cheap birth control being the norm, more couples are probably thinking twice about expanding their families. And it’s pretty hard to blame them under the circumstances.
On top of all of that, the marriage rate is also projected to fall this year. It was going down anyway, but with bans on large gatherings still in place, many ceremonies have had to be postponed. And newlyweds are traditionally among the people most likely to start bringing new children into the world.
This all remains speculation for now. The “experts” have been wrong before, after all. For all we know, we may see a big spike of “coronababies” in November or December. But somehow I still kind of doubt it.