Impact of the pandemic: US birth rate falls to lowest level in almost 50 years

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Credit: Wenig/Associated Press
Credit: Wenig/Associated Press

New provisional data released [May 5] by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the birthrate in 2020 dropped for the sixth-consecutive year to its lowest point since U.S. government began tracking it.

While some jokingly predicted a baby boom when the pandemic first struck — as couples were stuck at home in isolation — many experts suggested the reverse might happen as anxiety about coronavirus, massive job loss and the disruption to society caused Americans to postpone or think twice about having a child amid the chaos.

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Beyond anxiety about the pandemic, a multitude of factors are likely at play.

Research has shown birth declines strongly tied to economic crises. The current continuous drop, for example, can be traced back to the 2008 Great Recession. But even as the economy has improved in recent years, the birthrate continued to drop. And the pandemic appears to have only accelerated that decline.

Several surveys conducted during the pandemic have suggested a decline in the sex lives of Americans, with the coronavirus seeming to dramatically change sexual behavior, as it has in almost every facet of society. One survey found that declines in intercourse especially among couples stuck at home with school-age children. The decline in sex also correlated with symptoms of depression and loneliness.

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