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Births increase but it’s probably not a Covid-19 baby boom

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Baby boomlet: The number of babies born in Bermuda in 2020 increased compared to 2019, but it does not seem to have been caused by a Covid-19 baby boom.

Fifteen more babies were born in 2020 than a year earlier, reversing a trend that began with the financial crisis of 2008.

The increase from 525 to 540 registered births does not appear to have been due to a baby boom many predicted when the world went into lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the increase interrupted a long-term trend which saw live births plummet from 859 in 2007 to 525 in 2019. At the same time, deaths steadily increased, and for the last three years have exceeded births, meaning Bermuda experienced a net population decline.

Part of the reason for the decline in the birth rate has been mothers having children later – with the majority of mothers now giving birth while in their 30s.

That was already true in 2011 when 53 per cent of mothers were in their 30s compared to 37 per cent in their 20s. By 2020, the number of births to mothers in their 30s had remained essentially the same despite the overall decline in births, falling marginally from 358 to 345. But the number of mothers in their 20s fell dramatically – from 253 to 140.

Proportionately, mothers in their 30s now dominate, making up 64 per cent or two in three of all new mothers, compared to 53 per cent ten years earlier.

And mothers in their 20s have fallen as a proportion as well, and are responsible for most of the decline in the overall birth rate, making up 26 per cent, or one in four of mothers, compared to 37 per cent in 2011.

As for the increase in births in 2020, monthly statistics show an upsurge towards the end of the year, with 19 more births on a year over year basis between September and November which would roughly coincide with babies conceived with the beginning of the pandemic in February 2020.

However births fell by three in December, so it is not clear if the trend was sustained. The lockdown began at the end of March, so babies conceived in late March and April would have begun to be born in December and earlier in 2021.

Figures from the Bermuda Hospitals Board – which records births slightly differently from the Registry – suggests the trend did not continue into this year.

Through the first five months of the year, the hospital said 194 babies were born compared to 213 in the same period in 2020.

Bermuda will also likely see more children born out of wedlock than to married couples in the near future. There were 271 children born in wedlock in 2020 compared to 269 born out of wedlock. That compares to 341 in wedlock births in 2016 and 250 out of wedlock births.

Out of wedlock births have remained broadly steady in the last five years, while in wedlock births have steadily declined.

This appears to be a result of older unmarried mothers having children without getting married.

Just one of the 36 teen mothers in the last five years was married, but that total is dwarfed by the 1,678 mothers in their 30s who constitute more than half of new mothers over the last five years.

They are also less likely to be married than they were; in 2016, 255 of mothers in their 30s were married, but this had fallen 20 per cent to 205 by 2020, while the number of unmarried mothers rose by 61 per cent from 87 to 140. Where married mothers made up 74 per cent of all mothers in their 30s in 2016, they made up 60 per cent five years later.

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Published July 10, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated July 10, 2021 at 7:59 am)

Births increase but it’s probably not a Covid-19 baby boom

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