Why the Expected Coronavirus Baby Boom Never Happened

January 25, 2021 Topic: Economics Region: Americas Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: Baby BoomDemographicsEconomicsCoronavirusCOVID-19

Why the Expected Coronavirus Baby Boom Never Happened

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic factors there were likely fewer births worldwide in 2020 than in 2021.

When the coronavirus led to stay-at-home orders throughout the United States in March of 2020, there was much speculation that perhaps the concentration of people stuck inside with lots of time on their hands would lead to an unusually large number of new babies nine months down the line.

Now, we have data that shows the pandemic didn’t lead to any kind of boom—and in fact, it did nothing to reverse long term trends.

According to a story on NBC’s LX.com vertical, states who report birthrates have reported declines from the previous year in December of 2019, pandemic notwithstanding. Florida posted a decline of 8 percent year-over-year, while Ohio was down 7 percent and Arizona 5 percent.

There are caveats to the data—there are not numbers available nationally, nor for the majority of states, and December is merely the first month when large numbers of babies conceived during the pandemic would have been born. It’s not known yet if those trends will persist into January or February 2021.

Philip Cohen, a researcher at the University of Maryland who studies the topic of fertility trends, was quoted in the NBC story as stating that “this is a bad situation” and that “the declines we’re seeing now are… pretty substantial.” Cohen also noted that Google searches for “pregnancy- and sex-related topics” have also been declining.

The decline in births has several causes. It’s likely that many couples were choosing to delay having children due to uncertainty, both of the economic and health variety.

The decline had been predicted, with the Brookings Institution predicting last year that due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic factors, there would be 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births worldwide in 2021 than there were in 2020.

Brookings updated that prediction in December.

“Based on our previous methodology and a labor market that improved somewhat more quickly than we anticipated, we place more emphasis on the lower range of our original estimate, likely closer to 300,000 fewer births,” the organization said. “However, additional factors that we did not incorporate into our model—in particular, ongoing school and day care closures—might very well mean a larger reduction in births than that.”

While you’d think stay-at-home orders would lead to increased sexual activity among people stuck at home, that doesn’t appear to have happened in 2020.

“Levels of sexual activity have also fallen,” Brookings said, citing another study. “Those with young children and, particularly, those with school-age children report the largest declines in intercourse.”

And it’s not only in the United States. France 24 reported this week that there’s also been a baby bust in France. Nationwide statistics showed a 2 percent decline in births in that country, between 2019 and 2020.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.