(NEW YORK) — The number of births in the United States increased in 2021 for the first time in seven years, reversing trends that continued during the pandemic, according to new federal data.
A report published early Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics showed there were 3,664,292 babies born in 2021, which is a 1% increase from 2020.
The figure marks the first increase seen since 2014. Between 2014 and 2019, births were declining by an average of 1% per year, and there was a decline of 4% from 2019 to 2020.
The report did not provide reasons for the increase, but Pew Research Center polls suggest women in the U.S. delayed having babies during the first year of the pandemic due to public health and economic uncertainty, so the rising number could be the result of a rebound.
The report also found the fertility rate for women in the U.S. rose by 1% from 2020 to 2021, sitting at 56.3 births per 1,000 women who are of reproductive age. It’s also the first increase since 2014 after the rate declined by 4% from 2019 to 2020 and by 2% per year on average from 2014 to 2019.
Although the overall number of births rose from 2020 to 2021, the figure was still lower than the 7.74 million recorded in 2019, according to federal data.
When researchers looked at the number of births by race/ethnicity, disparities could be seen.
Among white and Hispanic women, the number of births rose 2% for each group between 2020 and 2021.
For Black and Asian women, the number of births declined by 2% from 2020 to 2021, and for American Indian/Alaskan Native women, the number of births declined 3%, the report showed.
According to the report, birth rates declined for women aged 15 to 24, rose for those aged 25 to 44 and were unchanged for the youngest age group, ages 10 to 15, and the oldest, ages 45 to 59.
The birth rate for those between ages 15 and 19 declined from 7% in 2020 down to 13.9 per 1,000 and the rate for those aged 20 to 24 fell by 3% to 63.3 per 1,000.
According to the report, both rates are record lows for their respective age groups.
By state, the number of births increased in 16 states from 2020 to 2021 and declined in one state, New Mexico. Of those 16 states, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire had the highest increases of between 5% and 6%.
The report also looked at infant characteristics. Researchers found the premature birth rate rose 4% from 2020 to 2021, to 10.49%, which was the highest recorded figure since at least 2007.
The biggest increase was among early pre-term infants, or those born under 34 weeks gestation, at 4% from 2020 to 2021 compared to late pre-term infants, which are those born between 34 weeks and 37 weeks gestation.
Additionally, the number of babies with a low birth weight — less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces — rose 3% in 2021 to 8.52 from 2020.
It comes after the low birth weight declined from 2019 to 2020 following nearly 29 consecutive years of increases.
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