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America’s Baby Bust Is Back on Track

Washington Examiner

June 2, 2023

America’s birthrate has been falling steadily since the Great Recession 15 years ago, and the brief uptick of 2021 proved to be a statistical blip, as new birth data show a small drop in births in 2022.

Speculation of a COVID baby boom hasn’t panned out.

Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday show tiny year-over-year decreases in the number of births and a birthrate measure called the “general fertility rate” — the number of babies born per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

The 3.6 million babies born in 2022 was basically equal to the number born in 2021, and the general fertility rate of 56.1 was only slightly down from the prior year’s 56.3. Both numbers are higher than the pandemic year of 2020. (A more familiar measure of birthrate, the total fertility rate, models the number of babies a woman is expected to have throughout her entire life, and that has fallen from above 2 in 2007 to around 1.7 before the pandemic.)

But when we zoom out, what we see is a steady decline since 2014, with a brief distortion by the pandemic. That is, the slight uptick in 2021 was basically a makeup for the babies foregone in 2020, and we are now back on our baby bust downslope.

Check out this chart.

Here’s another way to count it:

From 2008 to 2019, the number of births decreased by an annual rate of 1.16%. Then the pandemic gave us three weird years, with (1) a massive decrease, then (2) a small increase, followed by (3) a nearly negligible decrease. Had we not had the pandemic, and instead had the number of births continued to decrease by that 1.16% rate, we would have had 10.98 million births in three years. Instead we got 10.93 million births — which is to say that 2021 and 2022 were not a rebound in our baby-making, but were partial makeups for 2020.