Births declined in first half of 2021, likely pandemic-related: CDC

The number of births declined in the United States in 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic played a role, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics — an arm of the CDC — compared preliminary data for the first half of 2021 to final data for the first half of 2020.

They found that there were 1.74 million births between January and June last year, a 2% drop from the 1.78 million births that occurred during the same period in 2020.

The drop was largely due to the drop in births for the month of January, with 304,000 babies born in January 2020 compared to nearly 277,000 in January 2021, a decrease of 9%.

“The last two years or so have been unprecedented” for declining births, Dr. Brady Hamilton, NCHS statistician and co-author of the report, told ABC News. “Certainly the thing that caught our attention – and we already saw a hint when we looked at the data for 2020 compared to 2019 – there was an extremely sharp drop in the number of births in January 2021 compared to January 2020.”

However, after this sharp drop, the number of births increased in March and April last year compared to 2020, before falling again in May and then rising again in June by 3%.

The authors noted that this is an improvement from the first year of the pandemic, in which the number of births declined for each month in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019.

The report also revealed that the number of births fell for all races and ethnicities in the first half of 2021.

White women saw the smallest drop – less than 1%, from around 916,000 births to 914,000 – and Asian women saw the largest drop – 8%, from around 110,000 births to 102,000.

Additionally, white, black, Asian, and Hispanic women saw the largest declines in January, while Native American/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women saw their largest declines in May and February. respectively.

The report also looked at the number of births by state and found that 19 states and Washington, D.C., reported fewer births in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020. Seventeen additional states reported declines, but they were not statistically significant.

The largest drops were seen in New Mexico and Washington, DC, with a drop of 5% and 9%, respectively.

Meanwhile, four states — Connecticut, Idaho, New Hampshire and Tennessee — saw their birth counts rise.

Hamilton and his team said it was clear the COVID-19 pandemic had played a role in the drop in births, but it’s unclear if that was the sole reason and what pandemic-specific factors led to the decline. decline, such as economic uncertainty and lack of employment. Security.

“Although our data comes from the birth certificate and it’s an incredible dataset… unfortunately it has limitations and one of those limitations is the factors that people take into account to have a child, start a family,” he said. “It’s important because when you look at the impact of the pandemic, what are the mechanisms and how exactly is it happening?”

He continued: “So we’re seeing those associations, but in terms of the specifics, we kind of have to wait and see until we get survey data that asks those particular questions about the decisions people were making. “

Hamilton acknowledged that the sharp drop in January 2021 compared to January 2020 means women were not getting pregnant around March and April 2020, when the first COVID-19 lockdowns and stay-at-home orders took place.

“When it comes to looking at these numbers, there’s a nine-month lag, so the number of births you see happening one month reflects people’s actions nine months prior,” he said. “So that [drop] is very interesting and something that we will examine in more detail.”

ABC News

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