Athletic events, blackouts, and storm advisories each have a contemporaneous impact on the birth rate. Rejoicing after an athletic victory can increase the subsequent birth rate. So too can a low-severity storm advisory or a blackout.
Meanwhile, it’s a bit different for pandemics.
Pandemic Birth Rate
In a new working paper, researchers correlated conception dates and births with the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking nationally and at individual states, they concluded that unemployment, household spending, and the number of Covid cases each impacted the birth rate.
In their paper, they suggest that the sharp rise in unemployment to 14.7 percent during April 2020 and the corresponding recession related to a baby bust. Combined, they resulted in fewer births:
Quickly though, unemployment drastically diminished, the GDP recovered, and births rebounded. Somewhat similarly, the lockdown was severe but the federal checks that households soon received cushioned the impact. Then lastly, the study considered the stress and uncertainty from Covid cases and mask mandates. Here they assumed that case counts and mandates elevated anxiety and reduced births.
With New York and California topping the list, below, you can see the variables and how they correlate:
The good news is that the initial baby bust was almost entirely offset by the rebound. How much though depended on your state.
Our Bottom Line: Replacement Rates
A higher birth rate can mean a larger future labor force. Especially because the average age in the U.S. is rising, we will need more working people to support those of us who are receiving Social Security checks. Called a dependency ratio, we want the denominator/the labor force to be sufficiently large to support the numerator–the people over 65.
Instead though births have declined by 20 percent during the last 15 years. In addition, the 2020 TFR (total fertility rate) which needs to be 2100 births per 1000 women has been consistently below replacement since 2007. Down 4 percent from the 2019 TFR, in 2020 we were at 1,637.5 per 1000 women.
You can see the dip:
So, we can add a lower pandemic birth rate to our list of Covid-19 calamities.
My sources and more: My NBER Digest email is always handy for some interesting research. This month, in addition to El Salvador and bitcoin, it linked to the Covid birth rate story. Then the CDC completed the picture.