While all eyes are on growing excess deaths in Germany and around the reportedly post-pandemic world let's not forget the record decline in births which many nations have seen in the post-covid-vaccine world. In Germany the German Federal Statistics Agency (Destatis) has just released the live birth figures for October 2022 from last year.
From my previous update:
German births over the past years have followed a very regular annual pattern: births peak in summer (July) and are their lowest in winter (February) with a curious mini bump in January interrupting the winter low. Births in 2022 have followed a very similar pattern (minus the January blip phenomenon) but at a consistently lower level. Below I have illustrated this is with the monthly totals from 2017-2022 grouped by calendar month and displayed with the pre-pandemic average for 2017-2020 (green).
Every single month this year has seen a fall from last year and from the pre-pandemic average for 2017-2020. Only May and to a lesser extent June are in the normal range for the immediate pre-pandemic years. As of October 2022, the number of “missing births” now stands at ~43,000 or ~6.5% less than the average for the pre-pandemic period 2017-2020. The year-on-year decline from 2021 is 8,1%. Destatis manages to describe the first quarter declines as particularly striking:
According to preliminary results, around 617,100 children were born in Germany from January to October 2022. This was 6.6 % fewer births than in the comparable period on average from 2019 to 2021. The decline was particularly striking in the months of January to March (according to not yet complete data to -9 %) and in April to -8 %. In May, the number of births was in the range of the comparison period. Subsequently, the decline increased again. In June to -3 %, in July and August to -6 %. For September and October it is currently -8 %.
Including the latter months of 2022 highlights how sudden the swing from above average to below average live births was between December 2021 and January 2022. Note, I have charted the percentage differences for 2021/22 against the pre-pandemic average 2017-2020 because 2021 was a slight outlier experiencing a mini lockdown-induced baby boom - therefore my percentages differ slightly from those in Destatis’ statement.
Here is the historical perspective:
The normal range is for percentage changes from year to year of between +4% and -4%. While percenatage declines of over 8% have occured in the past, those in the 1970’s were not sudden and were part of a longer-term trend which had already started gradually in the 1960’s. The isolated single year decline in 1991 is very similar to that we see in 2022 and in that instance was attributable to the drastic decline in the birthrate of the former East German states immediately after German reunification (the birthrate remained steady in the former West German states).
The obvious questions this time round: Does the sharp decline for January-April represent an after-effect of the vaccine campaign from spring 2021 and do the declines in July-October represent an after-effect from the booster campaign at the end of 2021? Or is there a single continued effect since January with the interruption in May-June is a result of the Ukraine babies effect?
Here is my in-depth post from last summer where I tried to explore a mechanism to explain the drop in births not-quite 9 months after the vaccines were rolled out to the typically child-bearing age group of 18-42 year-olds which started approximately in April 2021.
Of course, this phenomenon is not restricted to Germany but also Sweden, Switzerland and many others. Here is my post from last month where I also discussed some papers that have been published which have analysed this strange phenomenon of the sudden sharp decline in Germany’s (and other countries’) birth figures in 2022. Both papers confirm there is a stong correlation with the vaccine rollouts from 2021.
Two further noteworthy details from Destatis’ commentary this month:
In West Germany the number of births decreased by 5.5 %, in East Germany including Berlin by almost 11.5 % (without Berlin 11.7 %).
The number of births among mothers with German citizenship decreased more strongly (-8.1 %) than among mothers without German citizenship (-1.7 %).
Is this more suggestive of cultural/economic demographic factors reponsible for the declines we are seeing? I have been unable to find good data on vaccine uptake by nationality for Germany in 2021 but the indications are it was certainly lower in those without German citizenship (at least 10% lower according to this studyreported here). It has also been lower in the former East German states. As mentioned in my previous update, we do know ~25% of births in 2021 were to mothers without German citizenship so there is 3:1 ratio between German mothers and those without citzenship. We also know the proportion of those without German citzenship is much lower in the former East German states (approx half as many) so this may go someway to explaining both points above. Note, there are other longer-term demographic factors also affecting birth trends in the former East Germany.
I whole-heartedly agree with cm27874 that biths and deaths data are difficult to analyse because of so many factors and - yes - much more analysis is needed.
Last summer I found the implications of what some prominent substackers were suggesting regarding possible effects of the vaccines on fertility rates so horrifying I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My own substack is the result of my need to share my thoughts and analysis while hoping for honest feedback and exchange with others.
As ever, any and all feedback appreciated.
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Destatis/Genesis Table 12612-0103 (Annual births by Bundesland and citizenship) looks interesting in this context (mid-term trends vs recent developments). We will have to wait until it has been updated with 2022 data.
If the trends remain or deepen for another year or so it will begin to become hard to recover from these drops. It is well worth watching so thank you for the data. It would be interesting to note historical population decline from other major population disrupters such as world wars and past pandemics (real ones.) The difference, here, is that these population disrupters remain disruptive so that a baby boom that normally follows such events might not happen if infertility is permanent. That is the final question with this. If so, we have a definite problem.