In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts predicted a surge in pregnancies as a byproduct of the stay-at-home orders. Data shows that isn’t happening at all. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says U.S. births are the lowest they’ve been in 35 years, with 3.75 million births in 2019. Birth rates were already falling before the pandemic, and this is the fifth year in a row that the number of births is down by an average of 1% every year. When looking at pre-pandemic pregnancy trends, rates from all age groups have been on a gradual decline, with the exception of women in their 40s.
- Over 40% of women changed their plans for parenthood due to COVID-19.
- Wyoming, Alaska and Vermont saw the largest birth declines from 2014 to 2019.
- The national birth rate has decreased 1% annually since 2014.
- Eight states saw declines of more than 10% in births.
- As unemployment increases by 1%, birth rates drop by 1%.
Our research found Wyoming, Alaska and Vermont were among the top states with the largest decline of births. Wyoming, the top state, saw a 14.7% decline of births, over two times more than the national average of a 6.3% decline. In total, eight states saw a decline of more than 10% in births, and all but one state (Florida) saw a decline from 2014 to 2019.
So why as a nation are we seeing such large decreases in births? During this time of great uncertainty, insecurity and inequality play a large role in birth rates. An economic theory suggests those who are more financially stable will cause an increase in births for what is called “a positive income effect.” In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated the cost of raising a child to be over $230K from birth to 18 years of age.
Guttmacher Institute found in a recent survey that more than 40% of women said they have changed their plans for parenthood since the start of the pandemic. It’s no surprise considering that just in December, all of the 140,000 jobs lost nationally were held by women. The National Center for Biotechnology found that as unemployment increases by 1%, birth rates drop by 1%. Historically, women’s reproductive lives have been affected by massive economic downturns. During the Great Depression, the fertility rate in the U.S. dropped lower than ever before.
Other evidence suggests that as home equity increases by $10,000, births increase by 0.8%, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Comparatively, the fall in housing prices between 2006 and 2010 was associated with a 7.5% decline in births. The theory is that increased home equity leads to wealth that funds a couple's “childbearing goals.”
Having proper health insurance coverage is vital for expecting mothers to keep birth costs low. Pregnancy costs add up with various procedures such as prenatal care visits, screenings, delivery costs, equipment, etc. For example, a hospital birth in-network costs an average of $9,500 and out-of-network births averaging $17,602 in 2020, according to FairHealth.
Unemployment is often met with a loss of insurance and access to health care. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Great Recession in 2008, access to sexual reproductive health (SRH) care and contraceptive services was very limited, leading to a national decline of fertility rates. It is clear that this pandemic — with all its severe economic, social and physical challenges — will have everlasting effects on SRH care and fertility in the U.S.
The financial, economic and social stresses of the pandemic have many people less concerned with family planning and more concerned with making ends meet. It’s still unclear when the pandemic will end, making it difficult for anyone to plan for the long term, but if past birth trends continue, we should see birth rates drop further in 2021.
|Rank||State||Births Change 2014-2019 (%)||2019 Births|
QuoteWizard analyzed the CDC National Center for Health Statistics’ provisional number of births. To rank states that have seen the biggest decreases in child births, we found the change of provisional births over a five-year period from 2014 to 2019. States with the biggest decreases in births were ranked closer to 1, and states with smaller decreases were ranked closer to 50.
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