Despite some early predictions that the pandemic might lead to a boom of quarantine babies—the presumed result of people being bored at home with their partners for months—more than nine months later, it would appear that no such boom has occurred.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite: According to NBCLX, several states are reporting significant drops in birth rates over the last year. After simply existing for the last 11 months, most of us can probably venture a guess as to why that is. The postwar baby boom was driven by soaring marriage rates and economic growth, preconditions for the phenomenon that don’t exist for our current crisis, which has left millions of people out of work and devastated the economy. Not to mention that it’s been difficult to foresee an end to the pandemic, even now that our agonizing wait for a vaccine is over.
On the contrary, many people are trying very hard not to have children right now: A June study from Guttmacher Institute found that more than 40 percent of women reported that covid had made them change their plans regarding when to have children, and 34 percent said they intended to get pregnant later or even have fewer children because of the pandemic.
“People make long-term decisions when they have confidence about the future, and if there’s anything that undermines confidence about the future, it’s this massive pandemic,” Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, told NBCLX. “This is a bad situation,” he continued. “The declines we’re seeing now are… pretty substantial.”
Birth rates in the United States have been steadily falling for years now, mostly because people can’t afford to have children, and lack the social safety net that would make it feasible to do so. The U.S. has no universal family leave, childcare, or preschool policies to speak of, and many of the people who might otherwise have children are swamped with record levels of student debt and are earning far less income than the generations that preceded them. And those who do have children right now are being pushed out of the workforce, or facing the insurmountable task of juggling work and full-time childcare and Zoom-schooling.
The people who are having children right now may be those who, infuriatingly, haven’t been able to access contraception and abortion services during the pandemic. Or they may be those who occupy a socioeconomic stratum that has allowed them to continue to live in relative comfort and security during the pandemic.
“A pandemic? Whatever,” a woman named Hilary Patel, who got pregnant in April, told NBCLX. “You just do it.”