US Birth Rates Hit Their Lowest Level in 35 Years, CDC Reports

One bright spot? An increasing amount of women are having kids in their early 40s.
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
May 2020
black and white image of woman and doctor's hands looking at sonogram

On Wednesday, May 20, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that for the fifth year in a row birth rates in the country had dropped—and hit their lowest level in the past 35 years.

This means that, once again, Americans are not having enough children to maintain the current population. The report looked at 99.96 percent of birth certificates issued last year and found there were 3,745,540 births in 2019—one percent less than 2018. It’s important to note that while birth records are helpful in looking at population growth, they don’t provide a complete picture (i.e. immigrations, people’s choice to have kids on, etc.). The report also found the general fertility rate to be 58.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. This is down 2 percent from what it was last year and another record low for the country.

Despite the declining birth rate in almost every age group, the report mentioned that more women are having babies in their early 40s—which is consistent with the shift in recent years, in which women opt to have kids later in life.

Less drastically on the decline, the report stated, are c-sections, which decreased from 31.9 percent in 2018 to 31.7 percent in 2019. Preterm births, on the other hand, rose for the fifth year in a row to 10.23 percent in 2019 (compared to 10.02 percent in 2018). This is the highest level reported in over a decade, the CDC states.

Of course the report only factors in data from 2019, but with COVID-19 kicking off the start of 2020, many experts believe birth rates will only continue to decline. The true impact of the pandemic on American birth rates and the makeup of families likely won’t be fully uncovered for the next few years.

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