In fact, the pandemic could result in 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births next year, according to Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip Levine, coauthors of the Brookings report.
While some joked about the potential of a pandemic baby boom as couples are holed up together, Kearney and Levine note that speculation about baby booms after events like blizzards or blackouts often does not hold up.
Instead, economic loss, insecurity, and uncertainty are the primary reasons that the pandemic will lead to a decrease in births.
The United States fell into a recession in February amidst the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdowns it necessitated.
“As any parent will tell you, children come at a cost. They require outlays of money, time, and energy,” Kearney and Levine write.
And, as multiple analyses show, an increase in unemployment rates is associated with a decrease in birth rates.
The Great Recession also led to a large drop in birth rates, with a drop of almost 400,000 fewer births from 2007 to 2012.
“A deeper and longer lasting recession will then mean lower lifetime income for some people, which means that some women will not just delay births, but they will decide to have fewer children,” Kearney and Levine write.
Additionally, states with more severe recessions had larger declines in birth rates.
The 1918 Spanish Flu led to a decline in birth rates — because of war manufacturing, there wasn’t a recession then, only an economic contraction.
Instead, as Kearney and Levine write, “The drop in births that resulted from the Spanish flu was likely due to the uncertainty and anxiety that a public health crisis can generate, which could affect people’s desire to give birth, and also biologically affect pregnancy and birth outcomes.”