Arizona sees unexpected rise in birth rate |

Jhe number of children born in Arizona last year rose for the first time in seven years, baffling experts who expected a baby bust to get worse during the pandemic.

But data from the Arizona Department of Health Services shows 77,735 children were born in the state last year, up 1.2% from the 76,781 born a year earlier, reversing six years of steady decline.

Experts aren’t sure what’s behind the rise in the number of ‘pandemic babies’, but said there could be several reasons, including the overall increase in population, changes in people’s attitudes to regard to having children and, perhaps, the pandemic itself.

“Just pure boredom. To be honest, that could be part of it,” said Juan Vega, CEO of Women’s Health Arizona, the state’s largest OB-GYN practice. stuck at home, you know, you can’t do much, there’s just not a lot to do.

Arizona’s increase mirrors that of the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics reported last week that more than 3.6 million babies were born in the United States in 2021, according to preliminary data. This is a 1.3% increase from 2020 and the first increase since 2014.

The CDC report also says the country’s fertility rate fell from 56 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2020 to 56.6 per 1,000 last year. The report did not give a state-specific fertility rate for 2021, but the CDC said Arizona’s 2020 rate of 54 births per 1,000 women was the 12th lowest in the nation that year.

The numbers, though small, are still “significant” and can have larger social consequences, said James Shockey, associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona.

“We would think of a stable population as some sort of consistent, persistent level of growth,” Shockey said. “And if we continue to decrease the number of births – we have a declining population – it is not really stable from a demographic point of view.”

In Arizona, childbirths have followed a general downward trajectory since peaking at more than 102,000 babies born each year in 2006, according to ADHS data, which showed the fertility rate was above 80 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age at that time.

The declines continued until the start of the pandemic in 2020, when Dr. Monte Swarup of New Horizons Women’s Care said the state was facing “some of the years when we had some of the highest per capita birth rates. down”.

“So we started to have some concerns that young people just don’t want to have babies,” Swarup said. “You know, what can you do about it?” »

This makes last year’s incremental increase a welcome change for Swarup and others in the field.

“It’s exciting for us,” Vega said. “In our industry, in healthcare, we take care of women during pregnancy. It’s a good trend for our industry, and we’re glad it’s happening. We hope that will continue. »

It appears to have continued through the first quarter of 2022, with ADHS reporting 24,828 births in the first four months of 2022, an increase of 1,043 from the first quarter of 2021.

Vega thinks the main reason for the increase — more likely than the pandemic boredom factor — could be a simple demographic shift.

“Millennials, in my opinion, want to start having children, on average, in their early to mid-thirties,” Vega said. “Now you’re starting to see millennials starting to move towards the middle, getting pretty close to that 30-year-old age bracket. They finally start to have children.

Shockey had similar views, saying expectant millennial parents worried about their financial stability at the start of the pandemic and decided to put off having children.

“All of a sudden people realized that everything was fine,” Shockey said. “You now combine people who were planning to have children in 2021 anyway with people who delayed from 2020 to late 2019. And (they) gave birth.”

The total number of births has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. And while Vega looked forward to a likely economic boom sparked by Arizona’s pandemic babies, Shockey pondered the societal changes it might bring.

“The question becomes for the future: has the pandemic changed or has it not changed the way couples, or women in particular, think about the financial cost of children, the social cost of ‘having children, the opportunity cost of having children and giving up the short-term benefits of a career,’ he said.