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Local News

Wisconsin Birth Rates Rose Slightly in 2021, Showing Tepid Signs of Recovery After 2020 Drop

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Anzhe Zhang 

Birth rates in Wisconsin rose in 2021, according to a provisional data report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that examines birth rates in 2021 across states and demographics.

It hints at a modest swing towards recovery following a steep falloff in births for Wisconsin and the majority of other states in 2020. In the first year of the pandemic, Wisconsin saw a drop from 63,280 births in 2019 to 60,615 births in 2020, marking the biggest drop in birth numbers in over 20 years.

Now the state is seeing a slight rebound with 61,719 births in 2021. While birth rates remain at an all-time low compared to any year outside of 2020, the roughly one percent increase has assuaged some fears from demographic experts that birth rates would continue to freefall, after dropping consistently since 2014.

In Wisconsin, rates of cesarean – or c-section deliveries, including low-risk ones, increased from 26.7 in 2020 to 27.3 in 2021, while preterm birth rates increased from 9.93 to 10.00 across the same time period. This mirrors national trends, as the average for c-section deliveries rose from 31.8 in 2020 to 32.1 in 2021, while preterm birth rates increased from 10.09 to 10.48 in the same time period.

Rates of c-section and preterm births were significantly higher for Black women compared to other demographics and the national average, the report found, with Black women having a 36.8 rate in c-sections and 14.74 rate in preterm births for 2021, compared to the national average of 32.1 and 10.48 respectively, during the same time period.

Other demographic data highlight how states across the country saw a rise in average birth rates for White women, increasing from 53.2 in 2020 to 54.6 in 2021, and for Hispanic women, which increased from 63.1 to 63.8 during the same time period.

Black, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander women all saw a drop in birth rates, with Black and American Indian or Alaska Native women especially seeing a 1.5 and 2.1 drop in birth rates, respectively.

Meanwhile, the nation is currently experiencing a rise in maternal death rates, with Black women being three times as likely to die from childbirth as their White counterparts, according to a federal study.

Overall, the U.S. saw 3,659,289 number of births in 2021, compared to 3,613,647 in 2020. One silver lining of the pandemic has been the steady drop in teen birth rates, which decreased from 15.4 in 2020 to 14.4 in 2021.

While birth rates are rising after the falloff in 2020, many experts remain skeptical about the long term trajectory towards recovery, as Beth Jarosz, a demographer for the Population Reference Bureau, highlights that the rise in 2021 birth rates may simply be a result of delayed pregnancies and a lack of contraceptive access for many. The increase in birth rates “doesn’t necessarily mean that that declining trend is over,” notes Jarosz, stressing the need to focus on beyond just one year of data.