Experts who had estimated that the last year would see a heavy decline in birth rates due mainly to the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, were instead stumped by data showing an increase – the first in seven years for our state. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported that 77,735 children were born in the state last year, a 1.2 percent increase from the 76,781 born a year earlier. Uncertain over the cause of the increase in “pandemic babies,” experts suggest there could be several reasons: overall population increases, changes in people’s attitudes toward having children and the pandemic itself.
“Just pure boredom. To be honest, that could be a part of it,” said Juan Vega, CEO of Women’s Health Arizona, the state’s largest OB-GYN practice. “Obviously when you’re stuck at home, you know, you’re not able to do much. There’s just not a lot of things to do.” According to a recently released report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, Arizona’s rising birth rate mirrors the national rate – more than 3.6 million babies were born in the U.S. in 2021, a 1.3 percent increase from 2020 and the first increase since 2014. The country’s fertility rate also rose from 56 births per 1,000 women between ages 15 and 44 in 2020 to 56.6 per 1,000 last year. Although the report did not give fertility rates by state, the CDC has said that Arizona was rated as the 12th-lowest for 2021.
In Arizona, child births have been on a general downward trajectory since peaking at more than 102,000 babies born annually in 2006, and declining continually through the start of the pandemic in 2020. Total births have yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, and while experts may look forward to economic booms triggered by the state’s pandemic babies, they also speculate as to what societal changes may follow, as the pandemic may have changed the ways prospective parents estimate the financial, social, and opportunity costs of having children.