US births did not return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022

Pregnant woman holding ultrasound photo.
(Image credit: d3sign / Getty Images)

There were fewer babies born in the U.S. in 2022 than before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The birth rate stayed essentially stagnant between 2021 and 2022, dropping less than 1%. "It's essentially unchanged. It's a very small difference, relatively speaking, compared to the total number of births, which are in the millions," Brady Hamilton, a statistician demographer at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, told CBS News.

In 2021, the birth rate appeared to rebound from the pandemic; now, however, that rebound seems to have been short-lived. It was also the first year to see an annual increase in the birth rate since 2014.

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Experts are now unsure whether birth rates will return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. "A birth rate below the replacement rate signals some major demographic changes on the horizon," Forbes wrote. The U.S. is not hitting the minimum birth rate, 2.1 children per woman, to replace the current population, which may lead to "an aging population and an economy that one day may struggle to find enough workers to fill key jobs and pay taxes," Forbes continued.

On the bright side, teenage births decreased to their lowest level in history in 2022, dropping 3% from 2021. "I'm excited the U.S. has made significant progress in reducing pregnancies among youth," Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, dean of the Duke University School of Nursing, told ABC News. Much of the change was attributed to wider knowledge of long-lasting birth control, like the IUD. The teenage birth rate has been on the decline since 1991.

"The all-time low should be an indication that we're continuing to move in the right direction," remarked Guilamo-Ramos.

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Devika Rao

Devika Rao is a staff writer for The Week. She graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Environment and Sustainability and a minor in Climate Change. Previously, she worked as a Policy and Advocacy associate in the nonprofit space advocating for environmental action from the business perspective. She is passionate about the environment, books, and music.