Americans had more children last year, marking a significant change in population growth for the first time in almost a decade.
After seven years of decline, the national birth rate reached a historic low in 2020 – just 3.8%. The rate marked the lowest national birth rate since 1979.
According to new data released by the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 3,659,289 births in 2021 which equated to a 1% increase in the birth rate from 2020. The agency also noted in its analysis that 2021 was the first year the birth rate increased since 2014.
Additionally, the teenage birthrate, the number of women between the ages of 15-19 who have a child, declined by 6% last year to 14.4 for every 1,000 women.
“Birth rates declined for women in age groups 15–24, rose for women in age groups 25–49,” reported the agency, which is a part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, the birth rate climbed for women ages 25-29 (2%), ages 30-34 (3%), 35-39 (5%), and 40-44 (3%).
America’s birth rate began to decline by an average of 2% every year beginning in 2014. The low birth rate was classified as “below replacement” levels, which mean Americans were not having enough children to maintain stable population levels.
“When the fertility rate falls below replacement level, the population grows older and shrinks, which can slow economic growth and strain government budgets,” reported FiveThirtyEight in June of 2020. “Today’s babies are tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers: They’ll not only staff the hospitals and nursing homes we’ll use in old age but also sustain the economy by funding our pensions when we retire, paying the taxes that finance Social Security, Medicare, and many other government programs we’ll rely on, and buying the homes and stocks we invested in to build our savings.”
Since 2007, the U.S. birth rate has consistently been below population replacement levels.
That year marked the onset of the 2007-2008 financial crisis with the collapse of the housing market which, in turn, damaged financial institutions and caused a major recession. Similar to the mass lay-off and business closures in the wake of COVID-19 isolation regulations, the economic uncertainty caused some Americans to delay or forgo having children.
The country’s population growth has never recovered from this period and birth rates ultimately declined by a total of 28% over the subsequent 14 years.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to delay having children – further driving down the already declining birth rate. The birth rate fell by 4% in the one-year period between 2019 and 2020 alone.
America was not the only developed country to see fewer children born as a result of the pandemic.
“Poland recorded 355,000 births in 2020, about 20,000 fewer than in 2019 (a 5.3% decline) and the lowest total since 2003, while Italy saw a decline of more than 10% in December,” reports ABC News.
In 2020, the average birth rate in Europe was 1.59. European countries with below replacement level birth rates have tried to incentivize citizens to have more children.
Italy offered couples an €800 payment per birth but had little success. Russia offered first-time mothers maternity benefits previously only given to women with two or more children as well as tax breaks for bigger families. Hungary introduced a new law in 2019 that promised families with four or more children would not pay income tax and created 21,000 new openings at childcare centers. Prime Minister Viktor Orban also said grandparents could be eligible for childcare payments if they took care of children for parents.