Oh, baby! Expert says we’ll see a drop in births because of pandemic

Oh, baby! Expert says we?ll see a drop in births because of pandemic

It may come as a shock to some, but a new study reveals researchers are predicting that the pandemic could lead to half a million fewer births next year.

It wasn't long ago that many were locked inside their homes with nowhere to go and plenty of time on their hands, so one might think a baby boom could easily happen.

Instead, experts told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden that economic loss, insecurity and uncertainty were all reasons why many couples said they’re thinking twice before having another child.

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"It's the greatest joy of our lives, and it's what's most meaningful to us as people," said mother of five Emma Jacobs, of Roswell.

For Emma Jacobs and her husband Stephen, raising their children together has been the adventure of a lifetime, but it's also cost them a fortune.

“It makes me physically ill to say what we spend on groceries out loud. In a week, we could spend $700 just on groceries,” Emma Jacobs said.

That’s one reason why in a new report published by the Brookings Institution, economist Phil Levine estimates that the U.S. could see a significant decrease in births next year.


Levine blames it on several factors, including economic loss, insecurity and uncertainty.

“In a typical year, there’s roughly 4 million births in the United States. We could easily drop a few hundred thousand, maybe, a half-million births,” Levine said.

Levine told Seiden that he came to his conclusion by looking at other significant moments in history, such as the 1918 flu pandemic and the Great Recession, where we saw nearly 400,000 fewer births from 2007 to 2012.

"This is a much deeper, much swifter recession. We also think those births are unlikely to come back," Levine said.

But the economy isn't the only contributing factor.

Devon Hensel is a professor and sociologist who studied how the pandemic impacted people's intimate relationships.

“We took a nationally representative sample of 1,000 people,” Hensel said. “In the last month, we asked them, ‘Of these 10 different behaviors, have you increased, stayed there same or decrease?’”

She said her study focused on participants from all different sexes, races and ages ranging from 18 to 94 years old.

“The most common behavior to increase and decrease was hugging, touching and cuddling with a partner,” Hensel said. “We actually found that people who had children under the age of 5 reported more partner touching, so greater instances of kissing and cuddling and hugging with a partner; we think that’s part of family cuddle.”

Emma Jacobs said with so much uncertainty, she isn't surprised.

“It was that was physically apparent they did want to cuddle and snuggle and spend more time because, and even if I might live with kids, it was, we really felt there was sort of a roller coaster of emotions that we weren’t used to. They had difficulty dealing with it. So we had lots of conversations and yes, lots of physical closeness,” she said.

Experts told Seiden that fewer babies could have an impact on the economy down the road. In about 18 years from now, these are people whom you want to enter the workforce. There will be fewer of them.

Also, it’s our younger workforce that helps contribute to Social Security. And with fewer people in the workforce, it means fewer people making contributions. 

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