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NH Deaths Exceed Births

Published Friday May 7, 2021

Author Kenneth M. Johnson

In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 contributed to a record 3,376,000 deaths nationwide, 18% more than in 2019. In addition, births dropped by 4% to 3,605,000 in 2020.

Because U.S. population growth depends on a surplus of births over deaths, this slowed U.S. population growth in 2020, adding just 229,000 to the nationwide population in 2020 compared to 892,000 in 2019: a decline of 74 percent.

This decline coupled with diminished immigration produced the United States’ smallest annual percentage population gain in at least 100 years. And these losses were felt across the country as deaths increased significantly and births modestly diminished in every state including New Hampshire.

In NH, deaths exceeded births in both 2019 and 2020.

As a result, more people died than were born in 25 states in 2020, far exceeding the 2019 record of five states with more deaths than births. In 2020, 20 states had more deaths than births for the first time in history. All five states that had more deaths than births in 2019 did so again in 2020.


Fertility declined sharply in late 2020 as women delayed pregnancies during the pandemic. In December 2020, roughly nine months after the onset of the pandemic, there were 8% fewer births than in December 2019, and preliminary data suggest a similar reduction in January 2021.

With births still declining and nearly 200,000 COVID-19 deaths already in 2021, deaths will likely exceed births again in many states in 2021. How large or protracted these fertility declines and mortality increases will be remains to be seen, but they have already dramatically reduced population growth in the United States. Many more deaths, fewer births, and less immigration produced the U.S.’s smallest percentage population gain in at least 100 years.

Kenneth M. Johnson is senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy, professor of sociology at the University of NH, and an Andrew Carnegie Fellow. His research was supported by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station in support of Hatch Multi-State Regional Project W-4001 through joint funding of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the state of NH. 

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