What Drove the Surprising 2021 U.S. Baby Boom?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the birth rate in the United States rose in 2021 for the first time in seven years.

However, “we’re still not returning to pre-pandemic levels,” said chair of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Denise Jamieson.

It is the first time the birth rate has increased since 2014. Before 2021, birth rates had fallen 2% per year.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found a 1% birth rate increase in 2021 compared to 2020. The CDC reviewed 99.94% of registered birth records from 2021.

According to data, there were 3.7 million births reported last year. This was up from 3.6 million recorded in 2020. Even with the increase, there were around 86,000 fewer births in 2021 compared to 2019.

Officials believe that last year’s increase reflects births resulting from pregnancies that were postponed during the early, uncertain days of the pandemic.

According to the author of the new report, Brady Hamilton, births were down in January 2021 but had ticked upward as the year continued.

Birth rates increased for White and Hispanic women by 3% and 1%, respectively. At the same time, birth rates among Black, Asian, Alaska Native, and Native American women fell between 1% and 4% in 2021.

Teen birth rates also fell by 6%, while pregnancies of older women rose. The data also showed birth rates for women in their early 30s increased by 3%, for women in their late 30s rose 5%, and by 3% among women in their early 40s.

According to Hamilton, “That sort of suggests [that] when we saw the decline in births from 2019 to 2020, probably many births were postponed. People were waiting to see what happened [with the pandemic], and rates rose in older women as they may have proceeded to have that child.”

The report said 3,659,289 babies were born in the U.S. last year, with the bulk of the increase driven by women between 25 and 49 years old. While the fertility rate and the number of births were higher in 2021, it is still below 2019 levels, according to Hamilton.

Economy, Covid-19 affected birth rates

“I suspect delivery rates dropped (from 2019 to 2020), probably because of the economy in relation to the Covid pandemic, but then last year the economy turned around,” according to the division director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Virginia, Donald Dudley.

“So that tends to give couples more confidence that they are going to be on firm financial footing and that they can afford a pregnancy.”

The CDC analyzed birth records representing almost all registered U.S. births for the 12 months of 2021.

“What will be interesting to see is what happens in the next year after we have had problems with inflation and the recent downturn in the economy,” Dudley said.