The U.S. birthrate fell to the lowest level since the federal government began compiling statistics in 1909.
In 2019, the U.S. saw a rate of 58.2 births per 1,000 women ages 15–44, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The number of births in 2019 was about 3.75 million, the lowest number of total births in 35 years.
“There are a lot of people out there who would like to have two children, a larger family, and there’s something going on out there that makes people feel like they can’t do that,” Melanie Brasher, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Rhode Island, told the Wall Street Journal.
The only age group that saw an increase in births was for women in their 40s.
“Women are still having children,” said Brady Hamilton, a statistician who helped write the new CDC report. “They’re just holding off until a later point in time until they establish their education and establish their career.”
The current trend may appear unusual. While birthrates generally drop following economic crises, birthrates have continued to fall after the 2008 recession despite the economic recovery. With the added pressure brought on by the pandemic, birthrates could fall even further.
“People that were products of the Great Depression, the birthrates were much lower for that cohort than they were for people born after World War II,” Brasher commented.
But the U.S. is not the only country currently experiencing a declining birthrate. Many advanced democracies in Europe and East Asia are also seeing a decline or leveling-off in birth rates, with lower absolute levels than the U.S. Meanwhile, total fertility rates — the number of children a woman is expected to have during her lifetime — are declining globally, while birthrates remain high across the developing world.