In addition to the million-plus people that have died from COVID-19, an estimated 500,000 babies won’t be born in the U.S. due to the pandemic conditions.
COVID-19 has had widespread impacts throughout the globe, resulting in record-high unemployment, a widening of the wealth gap, and rising suicidality and depression. In addition to these social ills, it looks like a falling birth rate could see half a million children not born due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Kearney and Levine, the half-million estimate arises when one looks at periods of a similar crisis, such as the 1918–19 influenza pandemic and the Great Recession, which both saw a decline in birth rates. Additionally,
Researchers have also tried other forecasting methods that don’t rely on what happened after previous catastrophes. One analysis is based on the volume of Google searches for pregnancy- and unemployment-related terms from earlier this year. It projects a roughly 15 percent drop-off from this month until February, while Kearney and Levine’s prediction is a decline of about 10 to 13 percent over the course of 2021.
Additionally, one study from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics used Google Trends to evaluate the interest levels surrounding childbirth and estimate that there will be a “50% larger decline [in child births during COVID-19] than that following the Great Recession of 2008-2009.”
“We see no reason to think that our estimate was too large at this point,” said Kearney to the Atlantic.
“In fact, given the ongoing stress for current parents associated with school closures, the effect might even be larger than what we predicted.”Melissa Kearney, Economist