Early in the pandemic, many joked about the potential for enforced proximity in March to yield a baby boom later in the year. (Many others, including most demographers, suggested otherwise.) With preliminary data for 2020 births now in, there is clear evidence of a Covid-19 baby bust.
Nationally, births declined 3.8 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, with faster declines occurring at the end of the year (November and December), when the first full impacts of Covid-19 were visible. Researchers from the Brookings Institution found that there were “nearly 40,000 “missing births” in the last month and a half of 2020, which would have otherwise been conceived in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Total births declined in North Carolina, too. Preliminary vital statistics provided by the State Center for Health Statistics indicate there were 3,622 fewer births in 2020 compared to 2019, a decline of 3.1 percent. These declines were more heavily concentrated in the latter half of the year: the 4th quarter of 2020 had 5.4 percent fewer births than the same quarter of 2019, with the largest year-over-year difference occurring in November (-7.3%).
Of course, not all these declines are due to the pandemic. Birth rates and total births have been declining in recent years, both nationally and in North Carolina; the pandemic may have merely accelerated the decline. As data comes out this year, we will develop a clearer picture of the full impact of the pandemic on parents, their families, and childbearing.