US births declined in winter months amid COVID-19 pandemic, census shows

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau showed the number U.S. births declined during the 2020-2021 winter months before showing signs of a rebound in March, but the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t totally to blame.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 crisis a pandemic in March 2020, meaning the largest percentage of "pandemic babies" were born in December 2020. 

However, comparing births during the pandemic versus pre-pandemic shows a significant drop. There were 285,138 births in December 2020. That was 23,664, or more than 7%, fewer births than in December 2019, according to the bureau. The bureau also said on average, there were 763 fewer births each day in December 2020 than in December 2019.

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However, March painted a different story. According to the bureau, the decline slowed in March 2021. Births dropped only 0.15% between March 2020 and March 2021. However, this was noticeably smaller than the 0.91% drop from March 2019 to March 2020.

"The winter decrease in births may have been prompted by couples who consciously chose to delay having children amid the uncertainty of the pandemic," the bureau reported.

According to the bureau, while the data showed the pandemic play a part in the decline, there were other factors too such as the fact that U.S. births typically follow a seasonal pattern. The number of U.S. births has declined every year since 2008 (except for 2014) and similar patterns have been reported in other countries. 

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According to the bureau, U.S. births typically increase in the spring, peak in the summer, decline in the fall and hit the lowest number in the winter. Researchers said given this, the pandemic couldn’t be the sole factor for the latest decline in births.

Bureau officials said between 2000 and 2019, the number of daily births in the U.S. declined an average 0.39% a year. 

But the U.S. isn’t alone when it comes to the drop in births.

The Human Fertility Database shows 21 of the 30 countries with monthly data through March 2021 had fewer births in December 2020 than in 2019 but more births in March 2021 than in March 2020. 

"It is still too soon to make broad conclusions about the pandemic’s effect on U.S. birth trends," the bureau also said. "But the data so far indicate there was a temporary drop in births amid the pandemic after accounting for other factors that existed before the pandemic — declining births and seasonality."

This story was reported from Los Angeles.