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Births in Georgia took big drop in 2020, now back at 1998 level

Births in Georgia last year suffered their biggest drop in a decade, falling 3,871, or 3.1 percent, compared to 2019, according to new data published last week by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). The drop puts the number of births in Georgia back at 1998 levels.

While the Covid-19 pandemic almost certainly deserves some of the blame for the decline, it seems difficult to pin the entire drop-off on the plague, for a couple of reasons. One is timing. The potential impact of the virus didn’t become apparent here until February and March of last year. If Georgians began making Covid-based decisions to put off having children, the effect of those delays wouldn’t have shown up until later in the year. The public DPH database includes breakdowns by county and other factors, but not by month.

A second reason that the coronavirus is probably not entirely to blame for the drop-off is that it represents something of a continuation of a pattern that had been taking shape for more than a decade. After years of relatively steady growth, the state suffered a big reversal in the number of births in the wake of the Great Recession. Starting in 2008, Georgia began a run of six straight years of falling births. It looked like a turnaround might have been taking shape around 2014, but it sputtered pretty quickly, as this chart shows.

Births in Georgia peaked in 2007 at 150,804 before beginning the post-recession collapse. The 2020 number is 28,425 births below the 2007 peak and a near-perfect match for the state’s 1998 totals.

In 2020, 112 of the state’s 159 counties reported fewer births than in 2019. In 2019, 75 counties reported fewer births than the in 2018.

DPH is expected to report county-by-county deaths for 2020 within the next few weeks. Given the death toll taken by Covid-19 last year, those numbers in combination with the drop in births virtually guarantees that the state will see another increase in the number of counties reporting more deaths than births.

TIGC was the first to report this trend several years ago. In 2019, 78 of the state’s 159 counties reported more deaths than births, down one from 79 in 2018. This chart shows the stair-step pattern that began developing in the wake of the Great Recession.

Generally, the drop in births took place across the state and was not concentrated in, for instance, rural Georgia. This table shows regional numbers over the past five years.

Copyright Trouble in God’s Country 2021 (c)

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. armanidog #

    Thank you for your work.
    If I look at a early 1900’s map of Oglethorpe county, I am amazed at all the small towns and communities that were present and have disappeared since.
    The boll weevil really did a number on rural populations in Georgia in 1914 onward.
    Do you think the rural population could halt the slide with Starlink coming in the next year with very decent internet connections and the rise of working at home for some occupations?
    Atlanta real estate is becoming too expensive and the rural counties have plenty of cheaper real estate.

    June 27, 2021
    • Charles Hayslett #

      I think part of rural Georgia could be revived, but they’ve got to fix healthcare first. And Georgia state government has spent the past two decades presiding over the collapse of rural healthcare. We’ve passed up at least $20 billion in Medicaid expansion money that would have kept afloat at least some of the rural hospitals that closed. I do agree that satellite-based internet can be part of the solution. Hardwiring rural Georgia with fiber will cost at least $4,500 per household and take years to accomplish; satellite service from Hughes and Viasat is available now and could at least serve as a bridge technology, and StarLink promises to be significantly better than the existing services. My fear is that foundational services like healthcare and education are too far gone in many rural areas.

      June 27, 2021

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