[Update: California released revised birth numbers, which added a trivial number to previous months, except December, where they added a few thousand, so now the state has a 10% decline for the month, relative to 2019. I hadn’t seen a revision that large before.]
Lots of people are talking about falling birth rates — even more than they were before. First a data snapshot, then a link roundup.
For US states, we have numbers through December for Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, and Ohio. They are all showing substantial declines in birth rates from previous years. Most dramatically, California
just posted December numbers, and revised the numbers from earlier months, now showing a 19% 10% drop in December. After adding about 500 births to November and a few to October, the drop in those two months is now 9%. The state’s overall drop for the year is now 6.2%. These are, to put it mildly, very larges declines in historical terms. Even if California adds 500 to December later, it will still be down 18%. Yikes. One thing we don’t yet know is how much of this is driven by people moving around, rather than just changes in birth rates. California in 2019 had more people leaving the state (before the pandemic) than before, and presumably there have been essentially no international immigrants in 2020. Hawaii also has some “birth tourism”, which probably didn’t happen in 2020, and has had a bad year for tourism generally. So much remains to be learned.
Here are the state trends (figure updated Feb 18):
From the few non-US places that I’m getting monthly data so far, the trend is not so dramatic. Although British Columbia posted a steep drop in December. I don’t know why I keep hoping Scotland will settle down their numbers… (updated Feb 18):
Here are some recent items from elsewhere on this topic:
- Laura Lindberg in Ms.: The Coming COVID Baby Bust. “Past patterns and emerging evidence suggest we are going to see a COVID Baby Bust. But how long will it last and how big will it be?”
- I did a Q & A with Rebecca Onion at Slate: Is COVID Really Causing a Baby Bust?
- Here & Now did a 5-minute segment, where I was interviewed: Demographer Says Initial Data Shows A Pandemic ‘Baby Bust,’ Not A ‘Baby Boom’.
- BBC – Outside Source did this interview with me:
- NBC-LX did this TV segment: There’s No Coronavirus Baby Boom — It’s More Like a Baby Bust, where they used the words “Quaranteen” and “Pandemial.” It’s on YouTube, too:
- That led to some local TV, including this from KARE11 in Minneapolis:
Good news / bad news clarification
There’s an unfortunate piece of editing in the NBCLX piece, where I’m quoted like this: “Well, this is a bad situation. [cut] The declines we’re seeing now are pretty substantial.” To clarify — and I said this in the interview, but accidents happen — I am not saying the decline in births is a bad situation, I’m saying the pandemic is a bad situation, which is causing a decline in births. Unfortunately, this has slipped. As when the Independent quoted the piece (without talking to me) and said, “Speaking to the outlet, Philip Cohen, a sociologist and demographer at the University of Maryland, called the decline a ‘bad situation’.”
The data for this project is available here: osf.io/pvz3g/. You’re free to use it.
For more on fertility decline, including whether it’s good or bad, and where it might be going, follow the fertility tag.
Acknowledgement: We have lots of good conversation about this on Twitter, where there is great demography going on. Also, Lisa Carlson, a graduate student at Bowling Green State University, who works in the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, pointed me toward some of this state data, which I appreciate.