At the beginning of the pandemic, some folks were anticipating it would result in a baby boom. It looks like the exact opposite happened.

The total number of births nationally was about 3.6 million in 2020, down by more than 140,000, or nearly 4%, from 2019, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of births has been trending downward since 2014, but much more modestly. The decline in 2020 was the biggest in decades. Many are pointing to the pandemic as the primary reason, although it’s too soon to know for sure. Even so, in previous eras of uncertainty and economic anxiety, such as the Great Depression, the number of births dropped significantly.


In Washington, there were about 83,000 births in 2020, down by more than 1,800, or 2.2%, from 2019, according to the provisional data. While that’s a big drop in one year, it ranks as the eighth smallest decline among the states.

Every state, plus the District of Columbia, had fewer births in 2020 compared with 2019. But those declines varied greatly from state to state.

The smallest drop was in New Hampshire, where the number of births fell by just 0.6%. New Mexico had the largest decline, at 7.2%.

The data shows that, nationally, fertility rates dropped among every racial and ethnic group between 2019 and 2020. The lowest rate last year was among Asian women, at 50.1 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44. That represents a drop of more than 5 points from 2019. The highest fertility rate was among women of Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander background, at 72.6 per 1,000 women aged 15-44.

The provisional data is based on 99.87% of all 2020 birth records received and processed by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics as of Feb. 11, 2021.