Preliminary data from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has found that the US may be in for a “baby bust”, with births hitting their lowest level since 1985.
The CDC’s study, which uses provisional data for 2019, found that some 3.75 million babies were born last year, the lowest number in 35 years. The national population has grown by about 190 million in that time.
It comes amid a debate over whether the coronavirus pandemic will see the number of births in nine months’ time surge or plummet. Some have argued that the country will see a rise in “coronababies”, with locked-down citizens cut off from contraception and abortions while enjoying more free time at home.
However, the CDC report’s lead author told the Associated Press that there was no knowing what will happen to the birth rate in the coming months. Others have said it is more likely the number will come down, with women thinking twice about having babies during a combined economic crisis and medical emergency.
The countrry's national birth rate has stayed reliably above that of many other rich nations. In 2017, the CIA pegged the US birth rate at 1.87 babies per woman, outstripping Russia’s 1.61, China’s 1.6 and the famously aged Japan’s 1.41.
However, the new CDC data finds it has now declined to 1.71. That is well below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 babies per woman needed to ensure each generation is at least as populous as the last – a level the US has only sometimes met since the end of the baby boom in the early 1970s, and which it has not passed since 2007.
Alongside the overall findings, the study reports that teenage birth rates have fallen to a record low, while the rate of caesarean sections has fallen to less than one in three births.