这项研究was conducted by Phillip Levine, professor of economics at Wellesley College, and Melissa Kearney, professor of Economics at the University of Maryland.
LEVINE: We use two main pieces of evidence to justify our position that births will be falling over the course of 2021. The first comes from the Great Recession. We are currently living through a significant economic contraction, and in general, recessions are not good for fertility. So, we base our evidence from the Great Recession, where we use data from all 50 states to evaluate the relationship between labor market conditions and fertility.
We’re also living through a significant public health crisis. Thankfully, we don’t have as much evidence to draw on from public health crises, but the last one that we can use is the Spanish flu from 1918.
There were three very distinct spikes in deaths that occurred during the Spanish flu. It turns out that exactly nine months after each of those spikes, births plummeted. And so we rely on that evidence as well to suggest that births are going to fall for what is now this year.
Fewer Google Searches for Pregnancy Tests
LEVINE: Yes, we have indications from indirect sources that suggest we’re on the right path. Surveys have been done on sexual activity, which show that sexual activity has diminished since the start of the pandemic. That pattern is particularly evident among women who already have children.
You can imagine that for individuals with little kids running around the house who may have limited access to daycare, limited access to in-person schooling, social distancing requirements, et cetera, that this is a very stressful time for those families. And it’s having an impact.
We also see evidence on the basis of what people search for on Google. If you’re thinking that you might be getting pregnant, you might be searching for pregnancy tests. If you get pregnant, you might be searching for information about ultrasounds, things like that. We see evidence that that sort of search activity has diminished over the course of the past several months. These indirect behaviors could be correlated with reduced fertility.
BRINK:And is it possible at this stage for you to know what exactly is causing it? Is it the lockdowns? Is it the illness itself? Is it the economic knock-on effects?
LEVINE: We don’t know the answer to that. Clearly the public health threat itself is a big deal, but there are other significant changes in our lives that would be very difficult for us to formally incorporate into a forecast. The issue of school closings and limited childcare — we don’t have any basis to judge what impact school closings have on fertility, as we’ve never had that experience before. So, it’s possible that we’re understating the impact.
If sometime this summer, it turns out that everybody ends up being vaccinated (keep our fingers crossed) and the public health crisis disappears, the economy isn’t going to recover instantly. That’s not the way the economy works. It will take years to fully recover from this.
And it’s not just the job loss. Even after recessions end, when people do return to work, it also tends to be the case that the jobs that they get often aren’t as good as the ones they had before the recession.
The US Is Seeing a Long-Term Reduction in Fertility
莱文:如果它只是我们发射g through this public health crisis, then we’re talking about a few hundred thousand fewer births this year. In a society with over 300 million people, 300,000 fewer births is not really all that big of a deal.
你开始随着时间的推移而增加 - 这是很多人。而且人口越大，经济越大。这是一个简单的数学。因此，多年来，更改人口统计学可能会对经济和社会产生影响。
Immigration Is a Possible Solution
BRINK:Is there anything businesses should do in terms of preparing for this?
LEVINE: This is going to clearly affect different businesses in different ways. We can follow these kids through their life cycle and forecast where we’re going to start seeing impacts on the economy and the businesses that deal with those segments of the population.