Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Birth rates among teens and young women hit record low in 2022, CDC says

In the United States as a whole, the number of births has plateaued after a modest increase following the worst of the pandemic, according to preliminary data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Dreamstime/TNS)  (Dreamstime)
By Justine McDaniel Washington Post

The rate of teenage births declined in 2022, reaching a record low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Thursday report.

The pace of teen births in the United States has been falling since 2007, according to the CDC, reflecting long-running efforts to increase sex education and access to contraception. The 2022 numbers continue that course, paired with a record low among women in their early 20s and a consistent rise in the birthrate for women 35 and older – all trends that reflect ongoing cultural shifts, experts said.

The decrease among teens this year, however, wasn’t as big as in previous years, making it difficult to predict whether the teenage birthrate might plateau or keep falling in future years, researchers said.

“We are going to see this trend probably for a while, but whether we have reached the lowest low I think is hard to tell,” said Feinian Chen, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist. “Since it came down already for the past two decades, (with) the extent of the decline I think we can expect some slowing down.”

Though the teen birthrate reached a record low, it decreased by 3% from 2021. That modest drop “really stands in contrast to the 8% decline that we saw per year for 2007 through 2021,” said Brady E. Hamilton, one of the authors of the CDC report, referring to the average annual decline across those years.

In total, there were fewer births in the United States in 2022 than in 2021, reflecting what Chen said may be a sustained downturn in childbearing in the United States and globally.

More births among older women don’t outweigh the declines among younger women, who still account for many more births, the data showed. More than 1.1 million babies were born to women 30 to 34; those 40 to 44 had close to 134,000. A dramatic 12% increase was recorded in the number of births by women between 45 and 49, though they accounted for a fraction of total births, with 10,533.

The year’s total number of births remained below prepandemic levels and didn’t continue 2021’s post-pandemic rebound, with fewer births recorded in 2022. The CDC called the difference – 3,661,220 recorded last year and 3,664,292 the year before – a “nonsignificant decline.”

Chen said that was unsurprising, noting that researchers never expected a major postpandemic baby boom and that the country is experiencing economic uncertainty. On the whole, birthrates may enter a sustained decline, she said.

“Long term, all the signs are pointing to a declining rate in general,” Chen said. “If you look at this globally, fertility is basically declining everywhere.”

The teen birthrate is 78% lower than it was at a peak in 1991, the CDC said, reflecting what has now been decades of efforts to prevent teenage pregnancies, including through contraception. It has dropped 67% since 2007.

“The sex education certainly is part of it, access to birth control is another part of it, but also a culture shift is part of the reason (for) this decline,” Chen said.

“We see the delay in marriage, the delay in birthrates. Those norms are quite different now.”

For girls age 15 to 19, the rate of births was 3 percent lower than in 2021. The total number of births among those teens was down 2 percent, the CDC report said. Among those, 18- and 19-year-olds had a much higher birthrate than 15- to 17-year-olds, but they saw a slightly bigger decrease.

The birthrate for girls 10 to 14 has been steady since 2015 and did not change in 2022, the CDC said, with 0.2 births per 1,000 girls in that age range, according to the report. Still, births by girls that young remain “cause for concern,” Hamilton said; there were 1,825 recorded in 2022.

The report, which uses provisional data based on all birth records received by the National Center for Health Statistics, didn’t include data by state or race, which will come with final data later this year. CDC researchers will then look at the birthrate “in detail, through a number of factors … to get a better idea how this decline played out across geography and demographic population,” Hamilton said.

“A lot of states have already low teen birthrates, and so it’s not really feasible, for example, to maintain the high levels of decline that we’ve seen in the past if a state’s rate is already very low,” he told The Washington Post. “These are some of the questions we’ll be looking at when we get the final data.”