Baby Bust? Experts anticipate fewer births during pandemic, warn of consequences

Jun 24, 2020, 10:30 AM

baby feet pictured, utah fertility rates are dropping...

The USU Utah Women and Leadership Project found that women are having less babies. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on the number of births in this country — and experts say that could have some serious consequences in the future. 

Baby bust: births and the pandemic

The info from Demographic Intelligence comes after they released a new COVID Family Survey this week. Findings from that survey indicate that as many as 3% of American women who were thinking about having children said they would delay their plans.

3% may not seem like a lot, but when spread over the entire country it means possibly hundreds of thousands of fewer births during the pandemic.

Local officials studying birth rates say the sudden decline actually isn’t the most concerning development. Rather, they are watching to see if this becomes a long-term trend.

“The uncertainty caused by COVID 19, with the dual public health and economic crises, will certainly put additional pressure on young families,” said Pamela S. Perlich, director of demographic research for the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. “It is the cumulative effect of many years of declining fertility rates that really matters.”

Experts say the rate of births tend to go down anytime there is a major hardship facing the country, whether that’s a pandemic or economic troubles. Statistics taken from the recent Great Recession and the 1918 Spanish flu back that up.

Economic consequences

Not surprisingly, a low birth rate can have a compounding effect on the economy. When it comes to the labor market, an adequate supply of employees is vital to sustaining a healthy economy.

Experts also are thinking of programs like Social Security. Falling birth rates could have a dramatic impact on a program that’s based on younger people paying the benefits that older people withdraw.

“The economic impacts of lower fertility are so enormous, they can actually be difficult to spot,” said Lyman Stone, Demographic Intelligence’s chief information officer. “Think of people living in places with declining populations like Detroit or Appalachia. Even in economic boom times, they just can’t sell their houses for very much, because each generation is smaller than the last one. Instead of being a savings vehicle, housing ‘wealth’ becomes a liability when population declines.”

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Baby Bust? Experts anticipate fewer births during pandemic, warn of consequences