Washington D.C., May 5, 2021 / 14:00 pm
The U.S. total fertility rate fell to its lowest-recorded level last year and the number of births was the lowest in 42 years, new federal data published on Wednesday revealed.
According to provisional data of the National Vital Statistics System published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the total fertility rate in the United States dropped 4% from 2019 to 2020, reaching a record-low. The general fertility rate and overall number of births also declined by 4% last year, with the number of births at its lowest since 1979.
The total fertility rate – an estimate of the number of births that 1,000 women would have in their lifetimes – was only 1,637.5 births per 1,000 women in 2020, well below the “replacement level” rate of 2,100 births per 1,000 women.
W. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, called the report “pretty sobering demographic news.”
He added that “we could be on the cusp of a major demographic shift, or almost like a demographic earthquake here in the United States.”
According to the report, the total fertility rate has been below replacement level “generally” since 1971, and “consistently” since 2007 – just before the global economic crisis of the following year.
The U.S. fertility rate is actually lower than Japan’s in 1988, Wilcox noted. Japan’s fertility rate went on to drop precipitously after that year, he said, effecting a demographic decline with around a million more deaths than births in recent years.
“The question is, are we heading down the Japanese road?” Wilcox asked, pointing to Southern Europe and East Asia as other examples of regions with low birth rates.