US birth and fertility rates drop to record lows in 2020, CDC says

(NEW YORK) — Birth and fertility rates in the United States dropped to record lows again last year, according to provisional data in a new report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of U.S. births in 2020 fell 4% from 2019, the lowest level since 1979. The figure is double the average annual rate of decline of 2% since 2014 and marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of births have dropped, according to the report.

Both the general and total fertility rates in 2020 also declined 4% from 2019, reaching record lows for the nation. Last year’s total fertility rate “was again below replacement — the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself,” meaning there are more people dying every day than are being born, the report said.

Birth rates dropped for women in nearly all age groups and of every major race and ethnicity: 8% for Asian Americans, 6% for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, 4% for whites and Blacks, and 4% for Hispanics. General fertility rates fell 9% for Asian Americans, 7% for American Indians or Alaska Natives, 4% for Blacks, whites and Hispanics, and 3% for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, according to the report.

Meanwhile, many pregnant women fled New York City to give birth last year as the Big Apple emerged as an early epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Out-of-town births among New York City residents peaked in April at 10.2% and in May at 10.3% — respective increases of 70% and 66% from 2019, according to provisional birth certificate data shared in a separate report published Wednesday.

“Reasons that pregnant women left NYC included concerns about the increased spread of COVID-19 in the City, the accompanying strain placed on the health care system, and a brief ban on the presence of support persons during labor and delivery in some hospital systems,” the report noted.

The findings are based on all birth records for the calendar year 2020 received and processed by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics as of Feb. 11. The records represent nearly all registered U.S. births occurring last year. Comparisons were made with final 2019 data and earlier years.

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