From the darkest days of the pandemic, researchers have uncovered an “unexpected” baby boom of American-born women who gave birth to 46,000 newborns, braving a years-long decline in fertility rates.
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that births fell at the start of the pandemic but increased among young US-born women, likely due to work-from-home regulations during lockdowns.
The 38 page work paperthat has not been peer-reviewed sheds light on the divergent birth rates between America’s native and immigrant populations and how greater flexibility in the workplace could be a solution to declining fertility rates.
“The 2021 baby bump is the first major reversal in declining fertility rates in the US since 2007 and was most pronounced for first births and women under 25,” the study said.
It “suggests that the pandemic has led some women to start their families earlier,” it adds.
Matthew Carnes changes diapers for his newborn daughter Evelina Carnes while his wife Breanna Llamas stands guard at a hospital in Apple Valley, California, on March 30, 2021, during America’s ‘unexpected’ pandemic baby bump
There was also a pronounced baby bump for “women aged 30-34 and women with college degrees, who benefited more from working from home,” the economists added.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, Princeton and Northwestern studied births in the US from 2015 to 2021 and births in California from 2015 to August 2022 to unravel the impact of the pandemic on childbearing.
The total fertility rate in the US — which measures the average number of children expected during a woman’s lifetime — fell from 2.1 in 2007 to 1.6 in 2020.
When the percentages are below 2.1, the total population decreases unless immigration fills the gap.
That is a major concern for the world’s developed economies, as fewer young people are employed, paying taxes and financing public problems compared to a ballooning proportion of retirees and the elderly.
There was a sharp decline in the number of foreign-born mothers having babies in the US. They accounted for nearly a quarter of all births in the country before the pandemic broke out in 2019, the study said.
Researchers have discovered an ‘unexpected’ baby boom in American-born women who gave birth to 46,000 newborns
When America went into lockdown in 2020, there was a drop in fertility rates — but only in the beginning, said the analysts, including California economist Martha Bailey, an expert on birth control and parenting.
The drop was driven by a sharp drop in the number of foreign-born mothers having babies in the US. They accounted for nearly a quarter of all births in the country before the pandemic broke out in 2019, the study said.
By isolating US-born mothers, researchers found a “baby bump among US-born mothers” of 6.2 percent in 2021, compared with the trend from 2015 to 2019, leading to some 46,000 newborns.
This was the first major reversal in falling interest rates since the financial crisis of 2007-2009.
The baby aisle at a Target department store in Hollywood, California, in September 2021, as America enjoyed an ‘unexpected’ pandemic baby bump
Birth rates typically decline during periods of economic downturn, but the pandemic downturn has been cushioned by multibillion-dollar government handouts, an increase in remote work and surges in stock market prices and home values, researchers said.
The baby bump among U.S.-born mothers may reflect the women who kept their jobs, had money in their pockets and were able to work remotely during the pandemic, the study said.
Other factors, such as reduced access to abortions and contraception, cannot be ruled out, she added.
“Unlike any other economic downturn in recent history, the Covid-19 recession increased rather than reduced fertility among US-born women,” the study said.
By examining birth records from California through August 2022, researchers found that the increased birth rates for American-born women have persisted and that the pandemic may have shifted the trajectory of fertility rates.