While business is fairly steady at baby stores these days, there are fewer parents stopping in because there are simply fewer parents.
“I have to say I wouldn’t wish anyone to have a baby during the pandemic. It was stressful and not the best experience,” says mother Crissy Bruscino. Her daughter, 6-month-old Willa is among a smaller pool of babies to arrive last year.
New CDC numbers show the U.S. birth rate hit a 42-year low in 2020 with just over 3.6 million births. That is down 4 percent from 2019.
“This is a bigger decline than we would’ve expected, which says to me that people are very concerned about their future and whether or not they can feel confident enough to make a commitment, that is having kids. Having kids is an 18 year, 25 year, really forever commitment,” says Karen Guzzo, a Demographic Research Director at Bowling Green State University.
The birth rate is the lowest its been since 1979. It bottomed out in December, when babies conceived at the start of the pandemic would’ve been born.
The postponement of parenthood has already spilled into 2021.
“A lot of my patients are coming and requesting and desiring a delay in their pregnancy and using more long term contraception,” says Dr. Fidel Shammout, OBGYN at San Ramon Medical Center.
While the pandemic and economic uncertainty are big factors in the lower birth rate, sociologists also point to a sharp drop in teenage pregnancies, as millions switched to remote learning last year.
Another factor, women who were on fertility treatments had procedures cancelled and postponed due to the pandemic. There is a sharp drop in unplanned pregnancies in all age groups.
“A lot of people want to have a smaller population to help globally, to reduce population. But we need people in all age groups in order to keep society working,” says Dowell Myers, an Urban Planning & Demography professor at USC.
Myers says a smaller American population could mean societal issues down the road due to fewer taxpayers. But some believe workforce issues will work themselves out.
“We can adapt to those things,” says Prof. Guzzo, “There are going to be economic changes in terms of what our economy needs, increasing automation for instance for some things, do we need as many workers in the future, perhaps.”