North Carolina’s birth rate has rebounded after a significant dip during the pandemic. That’s according to a new report from research center Carolina Demography.
The state’s birth rate dropped by about 4% at the end of 2020 — about nine months after the pandemic hit.
“I wouldn't say that it's particularly surprising," says Nathan Dollar, director of Carolina Demography. “We would expect there to be an effect on reproductive decisions from the pandemic and the closures and the disruptions to social and economic life."
Researchers call this a period effect — when a major event has an effect on fertility. The rebound was relatively swift though. The birth rate started to tick up again by April 2021. Now, researchers say it’s close to 2019 levels, though more recent numbers are still preliminary.
Dollar says it’s unlikely that we’ll see a significant increase in the future. He notes that fertility rates overall had been declining before the pandemic in North Carolina and globally.
“Economies develop, and then women in particular have more access to education and labor market opportunities. And people’s reproductive decisions change," says Dollar. "And so people have smaller families. And then cultural norms change around the ideal and intended number of children.”
North Carolina’s fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman would have in her life, is now at 1.71, below the replacement level needed to maintain the population’s size.