When the COVID-19 pandemic started and lockdowns became part of our daily lives, some romantic souls were predicting that this would produce a baby boom.
Now, as the data shows up, we see exactly the opposite.
CBS obtained data from health departments in over two dozen states that shows “a 7% drop in births in December — nine months after the first lockdowns began.”
Research from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., predicts that births may well be down 300,000 to 500,000 in 2021.
The prediction is based on a negative correlation between birth rates and the unemployment rate. Higher unemployment means fewer babies.
Brookings also notes, contrary to what the romantics thought would happen, that surveys of couples, particularly those with young children at home, report declines in sexual activity.
But these COVID-related hits to birth rates really attach to a trend of declining fertility rates in the U.S. that has been going on for years.
In 2020, the U.S. fertility rate stood at 1.78. The fertility rate is the average number of children women have during their reproductive years. A fertility rate of 2.1 is needed to maintain stasis — to have sufficient births to offset deaths so the total population size remains consistent and doesn’t shrink.
It’s evident that the U.S. is way below this and the rate keeps dropping. Just a decade ago, in 2010, the fertility rate stood at 2.06.
What’s happening? Why aren’t Americans making babies?
According to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s because the times are so hard and stressful.
“(E)ntire generations are sunk w/inhumane levels of student debt, low incomes, high rent, no guarantee of healthcare & little action on climate change,” she tweeted out to explain our baby bust.
Are things really so uniquely hard today compared with times gone by that couples no longer want to bring children into the world?
Are we not procreating because young couples are stressed out that economies are spewing too much carbon into the atmosphere, which will supposedly cause temperatures to rise?
In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, when the nation’s unemployment rate stood at 20%, the fertility rate was 2.17 — above the replacement rate and well above today’s 1.78.
The U.S. fertility rate in 1900 was almost 4, more than double today’s rate. Please don’t tell me it was because times were so much more safe and certain over a century ago.
In a 2019 Pew Research survey, 16% said having children is essential for a man to have a fulfilling life. Twenty-two percent said it is essential for a woman to have a fulfilling life.
In the same survey, 57% said that “having a job or a career they enjoy” is essential for a man to have a fulfilling life. Forty-six percent said “having a job or career they enjoy” is essential for a woman to have a fulfilling life.
Regarding being married, 16% said it is essential for a man to have a fulfilling life, and 17% said it is essential for a woman to have one.
This data, I think, sheds light on why Americans are not having children. It’s not because times are so hard. Every time is challenging, and Americans are more comfortable and prosperous today than ever in history.
Maybe the Brookings scholars will be right about having 300,000 fewer births in the U.S. in 2021 because of COVID. But consider that in Planned Parenthood’s most recent fiscal year, it performed 354,871 abortions.
Having children is about life, and life is about caring for more than just yourself. Calling abortion women’s health care and thinking that your job is three times more important than bringing new life into the world is not a sign of a healthy culture with a healthy soul.
If we want insight into our baby bust, this is what we should be thinking about.