NEW YORK – When most of the United States shut down over a year ago, some speculated that confining couples to their homes – with little to entertain them beyond Netflix – would lead to lots of making babies. But statistics suggest the opposite has happened.
Births have dropped dramatically in many states during the coronavirus outbreak, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary data from half the country.
The Covid-19 baby boom appears to be a baby bust.
When there is a crisis, I don’t think people think about reproduction.
Nationally, even before the epidemic, the number of babies born in the United States was declining, declining by less than 1% per year over the past decade, as many women postponed motherhood and had larger families. small.
But data from 25 states suggests a much larger drop in 2020 and 2021, as the virus devastated society and killed more than half a million Americans.
Births for all of 2020 were down 4.3% from 2019, according to the data. More tellingly, births in December 2020 and January and February 2021 – nine months or more after the spring 2020 lockdowns – were down 6.5%, 9.3% and 10% respectively, compared to the same months a year earlier.
The months of December, January and February together recorded about 41,000 fewer births than the same three-month period a year earlier. That’s an 8% drop.
“When there’s a crisis, I don’t think people think about reproduction,” said Dr. John Santelli, Columbia University professor of population and family health who reviewed the scan. of the AP.
The analysis included 24 states that provided birth data to residents. California, the most populous state, joined them in the analysis, which provided data on all births in the state, including among visitors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to provide a national picture later this year. But the data for the 25 states is unlikely to change substantially; preliminary birth counts usually end up being quite close to final counts, experts say.
The AP findings echo projections by researchers at the Brookings Institution and elsewhere, who have predicted a dramatic drop in births this year.
“The widely held consensus is that there is going to be a decline,” said Hans-Peter Kohler, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who focuses on fertility and health.
It didn’t look like some around March 2020, when much of America was locked inside. Some couples thought they had more time together, and some women might have a harder time missing and getting birth control, leading to at least a slight increase in births.
For Bryan and Katie Basamanowicz, it was more complicated than that.
The couple had planned to try for a baby last summer to give their son, Simon, a younger brother, but then came Covid-19 and the lockdown.
For a while, “it was so intense and scary” that the couple thought they should delay their attempt to conceive, said Bryan, 39, editor of a small publishing house who lives in. Ventura, California.
But then a lull came in early summer, as the first wave of Covid-19 illnesses abated and lockdowns eased. The couple decided to give it a try after all. Then the cases started to increase again.
“We decided, ‘Let’s put this on hold,” said Katie, a 32-year-old teacher. But it turned out too late: a pregnancy test came back positive in early July. “We were already pregnant,” she says.
Fritz Basamanowicz was born last month, March 6. Pregnancy has been a worrying experience as pregnant women are at greater risk of serious illness from the virus.
“I am very grateful that we were successful,” said Katie.
New York, the deadly epicenter of the American epidemic in the spring of 2020, was not part of the analysis. His health department said figures were not available.
The majority of babies born in 2020 were of course conceived in 2019, before the virus took hold in the United States, so the numbers partly reflect the pre-existing downward trend.
But births in December 2020 were down in 23 of 25 states compared to the same month a year earlier, except Alaska and Wyoming. They fell about 11 percent in Massachusetts and Virginia; 10 percent in California; and 7 percent in Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Nevada.
The declines were even more dramatic in January 2021 in many of the 25 states.
Yet Emily Newell, 31, who lives in Portland, Maine, with her husband, Ben Keller, said she witnessed the opposite phenomenon during the outbreak: “We know so many people who have decided to have children. “
The couple married in January 2020 and were eventually forced to work from home. They saw some appeal in experiencing a pregnancy with both partners at home, said Newell, a 31-year-old assistant professor of sports management at the University of Southern Maine.
“It gives us a little more flexibility in terms of care” for the baby, she says.
Their son, Manuel, was born two months ago.