Journal Article

Pandemic roller-coaster? Birth trends in higher-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sobotka, T., Zeman, K., Jasilioniene, A., Winkler-Dworak, M., Brzozowska, Z., Alustiza Galarza, A., Németh, L., Jdanov, D. A.
Population and Development Review, 1–36 (2023)
Open Access


We use monthly birth data collected by the Human Fertility Database to analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on birth trends until September 2022 in 38 higher-income countries. We also present estimates of monthly total fertility rate adjusted for seasonality. Our analysis reveals that the pandemic led to distinct swings in births and fertility rates. The initial pandemic shock was associated with a fall in births in most countries, with the sharpest drop in January 2021. Next, birth rates showed a short-term recovery in March 2021, following the conceptions after the end of the first wave of the pandemic. Most countries reported stable or slightly increasing number of births in the subsequent months, especially in autumn 2021. Yet another, quite unexpected, downturn in births occurred since January 2022, linked with the conceptions in spring 2021 when the pandemic measures were mostly eased out and vaccination was gaining momentum. Taken together and contrary to some initial expectations, the coronavirus pandemic did not bring a lasting “baby bust” in most of the analyzed countries. Especially the Nordic countries, Netherlands, Germany, and the United States, experienced an improvement in their birth dynamics in 2021 compared with the pre-pandemic period.

Keywords: Europe, European Union, World, birth rate, fertility, live births
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.