COVID-19: U.S. Births Predicted to Drop by 300,000

Relatively early in the pandemic, a Brookings report predicted that U.S. births might decline by 300,000 to 500,000 in a year due to COVID-19’s economic impact.

In December 2020, Brookings issued an update of that report.  The takeaway:

As of now, we stand by our prediction of a COVID baby bust of around 300,000 fewer births. But the longer the pandemic lasts, and the deeper the economic and social anxiety runs, it is feasible that we will see an even larger reduction in births with an increasing share of them averted permanently.

In a March 4, 2021 op-ed, the report’s authors note that while nationwide data confirming their predictions is not yet available, data from states like California and Florida from January 2021 (the first month that full term babies conceived after the onset of the pandemic in the U.S. would have been born) confirm that births dropped by over 10% and 7% respectively.  The authors go on to note that

In the absence of effective policies to meaningfully increase births, the most reliable and immediate way to shore up the U.S. population is through immigration, which brings its own political and social challenges. To maintain economic growth without immigration to offset the decline in births, we would need an increase in the share of working-age individuals employed or an increase in the productivity of workers, or both.

Over the past four years, increased barriers to immigration have caused immigration to decrease by hundreds of thousands of individuals annually.  The time to reform the U.S. federal immigration system is now, if the U.S. is to maintain not only its immigrant tradition, but also economic stability and growth.