Signs are pointing to a sizable pandemic baby bust in the United States, with implications that will be with us for years to come.
Opinion – The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the country into an economic recession and an unprecedented restructuring of our work and social lives. Early on, some likened the public health crisis to a blizzard, imagining that people would stay home, cozy up with their romantic partners and make babies.
These playful visions have given way to a more sobering reality: The pandemic’s serious disruption of people’s lives is likely to cause “missing births” — potentially a lot of them. Add these missing births to the country’s decade-long downward trend in annual births and we can expect consequential changes to our economy and society in the years to come. Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes.
Research we did last year showed that the Covid pandemic would lead to a decline in U.S. births of about 8 percent, as compared with the number of expected births without a pandemic, resulting in 300,000 fewer births this year than would otherwise be expected. This prediction was based largely on the fact that economic factors affect people’s decisions about whether and when to have a baby.
There is a well-documented cycle to the nation’s birthrate: When the labor market is weak, aggregate birthrates decline; when the labor market improves, birthrates improve. At the individual level, there is also a well-documented link between changes in income and births: When income increases, people often expand their families; when people experience job or income loss, they have fewer children.
This effect was evident after the Great Recession. States that experienced higher increases in unemployment experienced larger declines in birthrates; a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate was associated with a subsequent drop in births of 1 percent. Estimates suggest that U.S. unemployment will have risen by around 5.5 percentage points in the year following the start of the pandemic. From the unemployment effect alone, we might therefore expect a 5.5 percent reduction in births on account of the Covid pandemic.
NYTimes.com, March 7, 2021 by Melissa S. Kearney and
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Source: Time for Families