If you were one of those people making jokes about how there would be a big baby boom because of everyone staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus, think again. According to a new study, COVID-19 could mean a "baby bust" for several reasons. (None of which have anything to do with how difficult it is to get to a salon for some personal grooming, although that also feels like a valid reason.)
According to research research shared by Brookings, not only will the United States probably not see a baby boom, but people should probably expect a serious baby bust — as in potentially 500,000 fewer babies born in 2021. Brookings came up with the findings based on economic studies of fertility data from the years after the Spanish Flu in 1918 and the Great Recession from 2007-2009.
After the recession, for instance, the U.S. saw the national birth rate drop from 69 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2007 to 63 births per 1,000 women in 2012. A similar drop in birth rate was experienced after the Spanish Flu claimed 675,000 lives in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It seems there is a direct correlation between unemployment, mortality, and a drop in birth rates, per Brookings. And considering how many people are unemployed right now... it certainly makes sense that fewer people would be having babies. They can get pretty expensive, after all.
As study authors Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip Levine explained, mortality rates and unemployment are just two of the extenuating factors that could see a big drop on birth rates: "On top of the economic impact, there will likely be a further decline in births as a direct result of the public health crisis and the uncertainty and anxiety it creates, and perhaps to some extent, social distancing. Our analysis of the Spanish Flu indicated a 15 percent decline in annual births in a pandemic that was not accompanied by a major recession. And this occurred during a period in which no modern contraception existed to easily regulate fertility."
Chief Medical Officer of the March of Dimes Dr. Rahi Gupta shared his own thoughts about fewer babies being born in the coming years in an op-ed for the Washington Post, writing, "I started to ask my other colleagues around about what's going on and they agree that there's more demand for family planning services like oral contraceptives. For most of my patients, they were really, really busy and they were fearful of becoming pregnant."
Gupta went on to note that there definitely appears to be a "fear factor" among patients who might otherwise want to have a baby, particularly with all of the uncertainty surrounding more waves of the virus potentially hitting as happened with the Spanish Flu in 1918. "This pandemic and our response to it and the trust of the public in its government could have a consequential, long-term impact."
Welcoming a baby into the world is an overwhelming prospect at any time, but during a pandemic?
No wonder experts are predicting a baby bust.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.
Half a million fewer children? The coming COVID baby bust. Brookings, https://www.brookings.edu/research/half-a-million-fewer-children-the-coming-covid-baby-bust/