That decline in new babies is tracking in North Carolina as well as data showing 2020 births were down 3.1% from 2019 while the national average rate is down 3.8%.
In North Carolina, that translates to 3,622 fewer births in 2020 than the year prior with nearly 40,000 missing births in the U.S. in the final month and a half of 2020. Those births would have been conceived in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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"One of the things that we're seeing at the end of 2020 is a suggestion of what we're calling a pandemic baby bust," said Dr. Rebecca Tippett, Director of Carolina Demography
Tippett said the preliminary data is just starting to reveal the early impact of the pandemic on births and there could be several reasons behind the decline.
"You could see delayed consumption, so people postponing childbearing, intentionally," Tippett said. "You could see potentially increases in abortions. You could also see potentially stress-related miscarriages or other factors that could go on."
Tippett stressed the preliminary data is just the tip of the iceberg for researchers to understand how the pandemic impacted births.
"I think that the big thing to watch is going to be to look at the data from the first six months of this year because that will really be captured kind of April through September of last year and I think we'll begin to get a clear sense. Ideally, we'd be looking at how does it vary by the impact of the pandemic, you know, closures local closure regulations, unemployment rates, COVID rates, and then at the county level, to try to disentangle how much of this is, is about COVID economic impacts or about school closures or regional differences. But, like I said we're still kind of just looking to the future for when we're going to begin to understand that.," Tippett said.
Looking to the future, if the downward trend continues, Tippett said the impacts can be felt across many issues.
"It means that we increasingly are getting population growth from migration and migration alone," Tippett said.
"I think depending on how significant and long this decline in births is and whether it's a new normal, it could have real impacts on school enrollment and, you know, not next year but maybe five, six years from now. And then, possibly if you have catch up births, if people kind of, instead of having the time between their children that they have initially planned they shorten that time window, you could have then a bit more of a large kind of a little mini-boom," Tippett said.
"I think that the big thing to watch is going to be to look at the data from the first six months of this year because that will be again you know really from that is that will really be captured kind of April through September of last year and I think we'll begin to get a clear sense," Tippett added.