Wisconsin Deaths Exceeded Births in 2020

Two years ago, Forward Analytics published a study on Wisconsin’s falling fertility rates. In that report, we concluded:

“… should Wisconsin’s “birth dearth” continue, the state could experience an unprecedented situation in which the number of deaths exceeds births; i.e., a natural decrease in population.”

Using historic birth and fertility rates and the number of deaths in the state, we projected that deaths could exceed births as early as 2026. Due to a continuing decline in the number of births and more deaths than expected due to the COVID-19 virus, Wisconsin reached that point in 2020.

Recently released birth numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that 60,521 babies were born in the state during 2020, 2,749 fewer than in 2019 and 12,236 fewer than in 2007. To find a year when fewer babies were born in Wisconsin, one must go back to 1942. Since the most recent peak in 2007, births in Wisconsin have declined for six consecutive years and in 12 of the past 13 years.

The CDC also released preliminary death figures for 2020. According to their figures, 62,637 residents died last year, 8,503 more than in 2019. About 2,000 more Wisconsin residents died in 2020 than were born in that year.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), the COVID-19 virus was responsible for roughly 5,700 of those deaths. The number of deaths in the state will likely drop this year, but may not return to a “normal” level due to variants in the COVID-19 virus. For the first half of 2021, around 1,700 deaths were attributed to COVID.

However, regardless of the pandemic, Wisconsin was on pace to reach 60,000 deaths by 2024. And given the large baby-boom cohort, that number will continue rising for many years thereafter.

In other words, Wisconsin is facing a long-term natural population decline (more deaths than births) unless the number of births reverses course. And right now, especially with the impacts of the pandemic, there are few indicators of that happening. According to the CDC, from January through March of 2021, the number of births in Wisconsin is down nearly 6% from the same period in 2020.

Back to all articles