US birth rate rises 1%, halting steady decline

The birth rate in the United States rose slightly last year, ending a steady decline since 2014, the federal government reported on Tues...


The birth rate in the United States rose slightly last year, ending a steady decline since 2014, the federal government reported on Tuesday.

There were 3,659,289 births in 2021, an increase of about 46,000, or 1%, from 2020, when there was a sharp drop, according to provisional data published by the National Vital Statistics System, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increase can likely be attributed to parents making peace with living conditions during a pandemic, according to Phillip Levine, an economist at Wellesley College who has studied recent fertility trends.

During the first Covid-19 lockdowns in spring 2020, there was a sharp drop in conceptions that led to births, according to her analysis. (Despite frequent speculation, there is usually no baby boom nine months after blizzards, power outages and other one-time events that leave couples lonely and bored.)

But in the summer of 2020, conceptions were on the rise, as the unemployment rate fell and government benefits reached families. And as the pandemic progressed, locals infection rates didn’t seem to have much influence on people’s decisions about childbearing.

“Our acceptance of the Covid environment has increased,” Professor Levine said.

Still, not all women were so confident about having a baby during the pandemic. While the birth rate increased by 2% for white and Hispanic women, it decreased by 2% to 3% for black, Asian and Native American women.

The birth rate dropped to record lows for teenage girls and fell 2% for women aged 20-24. Women in their thirties, who are more likely than younger women to be married and financially stable, have experienced the largest increase in fertility.

One of them is Michaela Howard, 35, from Richmond, Virginia. She and her husband, both professionals in the nonprofit sector, welcomed their first child, Henry, in November 2021, after seven years of marriage and a debate over whether parenthood was anything. they desired.

“One of the biggest hesitations for me and my husband has always been climate change and the kind of world we’re bringing a child into,” Ms Howard said. Then the pandemic hit. For months, the couple felt like life was “on hold.”

But at the start of 2021, with Covid-19 vaccinations on the horizon, they chose to embrace optimism and design. “I felt like it was going to be something that would bring joy to my life, and postponing would be tantamount to depriving me of that opportunity,” she said.

CDC data shows that 10% of babies were born preterm in 2021, the highest rate since 2007. For the second year in a row, the cesarean delivery rate rose slightly, to 32%.

The rise in fertility does not alter the overall demographic picture of the country. Since 2007, fertility has been in free fall overall. And while the birth rate increased in 2021, it is still lower than in 2019. More and more parents are choosing to have only one child.

“I’m not going to get too excited about it,” said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire. “It’s really a very modest increase.”

Experts debate why American women have had so few babies in the past 15 years. Millennials spent their youth in the midst of two crises that could have affected their desire or ability to raise children: the pandemic and the Great Recession, which began in 2007, around the time the birth rate started to drop. Many millennials are burdened with student loans and high housing and child care costs.

Professor Johnson compared the experience to living through the Great Depression, which caused a sharp drop in births.

But social scientists say they are increasingly looking for another explanation for low fertility – a broad international shift in young women’s attitudes and goals. More and more women choose to prioritize education and work, marry later and have fewer or no children.

A recent article by Professor Levine and his colleagues found no evidence linking state birth rates to child care costs, student debt, or rental housing costs. The paper also demonstrated that in high-income countries with much more generous social safety nets than in the United States, fertility has long been well below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. Policies aimed at encouraging fertility have had only a modest and short-term effect.

America’s fertility decline appears to be following the path already taken by countries like Japan, Britain and Sweden.

A lower birth rate raises questions about long-term national economic growth. There will be fewer adults working to fund programs like Social Security and Medicare.

“The simplest solution to the problem is increased immigration,” Professor Levine said.

“It’s politically tenuous,” he said. “In a world where you have to live with a lower fertility rate,” he added, “you have to think about being more efficient in investing in the education system and in infrastructure – things that will take us forward as a society that doesn’t come from a few more people.

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Newsrust - US Top News: US birth rate rises 1%, halting steady decline
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