500,000 Fewer US Births Expected This Year

Covid is having unanticipated consequences. A baby-boom caused by quarantined couples was suggested in the early months of the pandemic, but the number of pregnancies didn’t materialize and now economists say to expect a baby-bust.

Wellesley economics professor Dr. Phillip Levine, a one-time White House economic advisor, and a team of researchers with Brookings Institution, reviewed data from past recessions, most recently the impact of the 2008 downturn. “We also looked at the evidence from the Spanish Flu one hundred years ago, which wasn’t during the time of a recession and had a public health consequence, which also led to a dramatic decline in births,” he tells KTRH News.

They project a decline of 300,000 to 500,000 births in the U.S. this year, and the implications are dramatic. “At the end of the day, if you‘re interested in things like school construction, labor force entry 20 years from now, the solvency of the Social Security fund, which depends on worker contributions, all those things matter,” he says.

Lila Valencia with the Texas Demographic Center provides fascinating insight into how this playing out in projections of growth in Texas, which is shared below:

What we know about the possible impacts of COVID-19 on population growth in Texas.

•Migration has come to a standstill. At least half of the growth seen in the Texas population can be attributed to net migration. Stagnant migration will definitely work to dramatically slow the growth of the state.

•Impacts on mortality are complicated.

•Mortality due to virus varies by age, race/ethnicity. We are seeing older Texans and Hispanics and Blacks in Texas being disproportionately impact in terms of mortality by COVID-19.

•Other causes of death have declined. We do not yet have data on mortality in Texas for 2020. We will not have this for a while, but we know there are some expectations that causes of death associated with work accidents or vehicular crashes may have gone down given fewer people are at work and driving. However, we do not have these data yet.

•Impacts on fertility are also complicated.

•Families tend to postpone births during economic recessions. We saw this following the Great Recession. Fertility rates in Texas saw a dramatic drop, especially among Latinos, following the Great Recession. Total fertility rates, of the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime, in Texas decreased from 2.36 children per woman in 2006 to 2.08 in 2010 and continued to drop to 1.87 in 2018 (most recent data available from the CDC Vital Statistics Annual Reports). These drops were most drastic for Latinos, compared to other race groups.

•Partners are spending more time at home. Some anticipate there could be a slight increase in fertility due to the increased time couples are spending together. However, this circumstance could still be affected by things like lack of access to contraception or the stress of the pandemic and economic recession.

•Teens are also spending more time at home and apart from peers. This time apart could help to further decrease unplanned pregnancies among young mothers.

•Stress can have negative impacts on birth outcomes. Even if conception occurred during this time, stressful situations have been found to negatively impact birth outcomes, resulting in fewer live birth, lower birth weights and other negative birth outcomes.

•Texas recovered the Great Recession faster than other states. We do not know if this will be the case this time around. Texas is being challenged by COVID more so than other states. Much of the recovery in Texas also had to do with more jobs and workers being created in Texas relative to other states. If Texas is viewed as not having a handle on the pandemic, this could impact the pace at which the economy may recover.

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