The U.S. birth rate saw a slight decline from 2021 to 2022 after a small uptick in births during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provisional report published Thursday.
According to the Vital Statistics Rapid Release Program’s analysis of 99% of all birth certificates in 2022, there was a less than 1% decline in total births from 2021 to 2022, decreasing from 3,664,292 babies in 2021 to 3,661,220 in 2022. The data also noted that 2021 was the first year since 2014 that the U.S. birth rate had increased, while U.S. births dropped relatively significantly due to the pandemic, from 3,747,540 births in 2019 to 3,613,647 births in 2020.
The decline in birth rates is not an issue unique to the United States, as global fertility rates have declined by 50% in the past 70 years, with the U.S. at a 1.8 fertility rate — slightly below the global average of 2.4. The nation’s fertility rate is still significantly better than many other developed countries such as Japan and Italy, with fertility rates at less than 1.25.
The CDC report charted a continued rise in births from women in their early 40s and late 30s as well as a continued decline in teen births, which have declined a staggering 80% since 1991. Births among women aged 40-44 have not decreased since 1981, with 2020 being an exception due to COVID restrictions. This is a reflection of many families delaying having children.
2022 also marks the first year of the landmark Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Many experts initially predicted a spike in births, estimating that nearly 50% of pregnancies are unintentional, although this does not seem to be reflected in the CDC data, with further answers possible when the full report is released in several months.
Many conservatives contend that the decline in births is in part caused by the Western world losing touch with religious and cultural values, calling for a return to more traditional family structures.