There’s Still No Sign of that Pandemic Baby Boom

Rumors of a pandemic baby boom swirled during early lockdown, but experts quick to dispel the optimistic predictions have proven correct as birth rates continue to drop

empty maternity ward
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It’s been over nine months since the pandemic began, which may have some of us wondering, “Hey, where’s that baby boom we heard so much about?” Spoiler alert: It’s not coming.

While the early days of pandemic lockdowns were rife with rumors of a forthcoming baby boom born out of the assumption that quarantined couples would be trapped inside together with nothing to do but each other, experts were quick to dispel the baby boom forecast early on. Disaster-related baby booms have been repeatedly mythbusted, and experts predicted the pandemic was more likely to result in a baby bust as would-be parents put their family-planning goals on hold in the face of prolonged stress and financial uncertainty.

“We know from prior studies that exposure to epidemics or other high mortality events like natural disasters depress fertility in the short term,” Alison Gemmill, an Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told InsideHook back in June, adding that these effects would likely only be compounded by the economic strain occurring in tandem with this particular disaster.

Flash forward several months, and it would seem the baby boom naysayers were onto something. According to NBCLX, not only is there no sign of a baby boom, but several states have actually reported significant drops in birth rates over the past year.

“People make long-term decisions when they have confidence about the future, and if there’s anything that undermines confidence about the future, it’s this massive pandemic,” Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, told NBCLX. Indeed, a pandemic rife with fear, uncertainty, widespread job loss and financial instability isn’t exactly the kind of environment into which most parents dream of bringing new life, and whether or not people are actually having more sex amid the pandemic, it’s clear few are doing it with baby-making in mind. “This is a bad situation,” Cohen continued. “The declines we’re seeing now are… pretty substantial.”

Meanwhile, this pandemic-related birth rate drop follows a trend of declining birth rates in the U.S. that far predates the pandemic. For the current generation of would-be baby-makers, their childbearing years have been marked by financial strain unmatched by the generations before them, including crippling student debt and two economic crises. Throw in several years of social upheaval and America’s lack of universal family leave, and it’s been a long time since Americans have felt confident bringing new life into the world. Unsurprisingly, a deadly pandemic seems unlikely to change that.

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