There were some initial thoughts as the COVID pandemic was sweeping the country last year that the various lockdowns would result in a baby boom. But as it happens, that isn’t the case. Various organizations are reporting a declining birth rate not only for women in the U.S., but around the world as well. This news is a disappointment.
According to a report gathered by CBS News from 27 state health departments, there was about a 7.2% decline in the number of births in December 2020. While that’s just one month, it is exactly nine months after many states went into lockdown. In California, births declined by 10.2%, and in Hawaii by a staggering 30.4%.
For Phil Cohen, a sociologist who has been watching the nation’s birth rate decline for a decade, the drop in December is the biggest that he has seen since the baby boom ended in 1964.
“The scale of this is really large,” Cohen told CBS News over the phone. “Regardless of whether you think it’s good or bad to have a lot of children, the fact that we’re suddenly having fewer means things are not going well for a lot of people.”
This is very concerning, as the U.S. birth rate has already fallen below replacement levels, to 1.7 children per woman. In order to sustain a population, women should have at least 2.1 children but preferably more in order to both sustain and grow.
A declining birthrate can result in a country and population that’s out-of-balance, with fewer young people in the workforce contributing to economic growth and more older people who generally put more strain on the health system and welfare programs.
The most obvious examples of this strain are countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany and several others that have a birth rate below 1.7. In Singapore, the country with the world’s lowest birth rate, women have an average of 0.83 children.
For a pro-abortion thinktank like the Guttmacher Institute, they don’t see the danger as much as a reflection that women are now more independent, career-focused and less interested in motherhood.
“So it’s a shift to later in life. In that shift comes more education, more career, more employment. It’s a real reordering of how people engage in adulthood,” Laura Lindberg, principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, told CBS.
In an interview with NPR, demographer Dowell Myers of the University of Southern California sees this decline as a “sign of despair.”
“It’s a national problem,” Myers said. “The birthrate is a barometer of despair.”
Myers expanded on that statement to NPR, explaining that “young people won’t make plans to have babies unless they’re optimistic about the future…He adds that by nearly all economic standards—except for high housing costs—birthrates should now be rising.”
Elena Parent, a state senator in Georgia, wrote about the situation on Twitter, stating, “Parents know why the birthrate is falling. Kids are expensive and time-consuming, and our society doesn’t make it easy.”
And COVID didn’t help the situation. The Brookings Institute estimates that when all is said and done, meaning all states have reported the official number of births, there were likely 300,000 fewer births in 2020.
Sexual activity has also fallen, especially with parents who have school-age children. In one survey, though about “half of the sample reported a decline in their sex life, one in five participants reported expanding their sexual repertoire by incorporating new activities.”
Europe is experiencing a similar birth decline in response to COVID.
Children are a gift from the Lord, and while it’s been encouraging to see some people be able to grow their families during the pandemic, this stunning overall decline is concerning and will impact Americans for generations to come.
Photo from Shutterstock