Covid ‘baby bust’ expected with half a million fewer births next year

With most people stuck at home during the spring coronavirus shutdown, many expected a boom in births next year. But researchers are predicting hundreds of thousands of fewer births because of concerns stemming from the pandemic.

Despite everything that’s going on in the world right now, Abigail and Duncan, a young couple from Brookline, are looking forward to having their first baby this fall.

“Obviously some people will be a little bit more hesitant to start a family with everything that’s going on,” said Duncan. “At the same time, you don’t want to put your life on hold.”

But many couples are deciding to hold off having children right now. The Brookings Institution recently released an estimate of between 300,000 to 500,000 fewer babies born next year due to Covid-19.

“There’s a lot of fear about the potential of contracting the infection while pregnant, and then the second concern is financial,” explained Dr. Luu Ireland, an OB-GYN at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.

Ireland said that as she talks to couples about their reproductive plans, many say they’re postponing having children right now.

Ken Johnson, a sociology professor at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, and an expert on demographic trends says birth rates had been drifting down for years and then went off a cliff during the Great Recession more than a decade ago. He said he expects the birth rate to go down next year.

“In fact, because birth rates are so low and there’s been so little natural increase in the United States, the growth rate last year was the lowest it’s been since the time of the Spanish flu 100 years ago,” added Johnson.

Combine that with fewer immigrants coming to the United States and Johnson says serious implications hang over American society. “Right now, we have fewer children in the lower grades of school than we would otherwise have because those babies were never born. Next, they’re going to affect college enrollments, then there will be fewer young people in the labor force.”

This also means there will be fewer workers paying into Social Security to support retirees who are living longer.

Some states are now seeing more deaths than births each year, including New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Johnson believes that list will expand as the number of deaths associated with the coronavirus continues to climb.

Considering all the bad news today, Abigail thinks a baby might be just what the doctor ordered, however. “I think it gives people something to look forward to, as well as something to be excited about.”

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