There were fewer babies born in the U.S. in 2022 compared to 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday, suggesting that a rebound in births following the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have ended.
An estimated 3,661,220 babies were born nationwide in 2022, according to an initial analysis of data from birth certificates issued last year. That is less than a 1% decrease from 2021.
“It’s essentially unchanged. It’s a very small difference, relatively speaking, compared to the total number of births, which are in the millions,” said Brady Hamilton, a statistician demographer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
For 2021, the final report from the NCHS had tallied 3,664,292 babies born across the country.
That amounted to the first annual increase since 2014 of the nation’s general fertility rate — new babies relative to how many women are old enough to give birth — after it plummeted 4% in 2020 during the first year of the pandemic.
However, the rebound in 2021 still fell short of the number of new babies — 3,747,540 births — born in 2019 before the outbreak began.
The CDC already publishes some early estimates on births each quarter. The report published Thursday, co-authored by Hamilton, takes a closer look at some more specific trends in babies born last year.
It reports trends in Cesarean delivery rates, which have climbed for a third year in a row to 32.2% of babies born. Preterm birth rates have fallen, after climbing 4% from 2020 to 2021.
Birth rates remain highest for women in their late 20s and early 30s, at more than 90 babies born per 1,000 women. Previous NCHS reports have tracked the average age of women giving birth to their first child increasing in recent years.
Thursday’s figures remain “provisional” until final estimates are published later this summer, though previous annual figures have only seen small changes as the last records are reported in.
“There’s never a very large difference in terms of the final data versus the provisional data. And in our report, we noted that we’ve collected roughly 99.99% of the records that we expect to see in terms of the final data, so it tracks well, and the general patterns you see should hold up,” said Hamilton.
The final report will also offer some further details and analyses not included in this report, like how these trends by age vary by state. Birth rates had varied between different parts of the country earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teen births reach another record low
The estimated birth rate among teenagers declined to just 13.5 babies born per 1,000 Americans ages 15 to 19 years old. This marks yet another record low, the CDC said.
Since 2009, teen birth rates have declined every year. From its last peak in 1991, rates have fallen 80%.
The teen birth rate from 2021 to 2022 declined by 3%, which is smaller than the average annual 8% decrease from recent pre-pandemic years.
“It definitely differs from the pattern that we have seen before, and certainly one of the things that we’ll look at once we get the final data, looking at in terms of the rates by state, and looking at it in detail in terms of race and Hispanic origin,” said Hamilton.
Among birth rates in other age groups, women ages 40 to 44 years old saw the biggest percent increase from 2021; 12.5 babies were born per 1,000 women in this age group during 2022, in a 4% increase from the year before.
This is also in line with trends from before the pandemic. Before 2020, birth rates had not declined for women ages 40 to 44 years old from year-to-year since 1981.
Fertility rate for Hispanic women climbs again
In 2019, virtually all race and ethnic groups recorded a decrease in their fertility rate. 2020 saw another annual decrease across the board. Fertility rates fell furthest among Asian women, dropping 8% from 2019.
Not everyone saw a rebound in fertility rates during 2021.
The rate increased 6% among non-Hispanic White women from 2020 to 2021. Hispanic women were the only other group to see an increase, up 1% from the year before.
Hispanic women saw their fertility rate climb again for another straight year in 2022, increasing 4% from 2021.
Fertility rates also climbed among Asian women in 2022, increasing by 3% from 2021, and for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander women, which was up by 6%.
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