The US COVID-19 Baby Bust and Rebound
This paper documents how the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. affected birth rates. We review the economics of fertility, describing the evidence that would predict a COVID baby bust. We then use Vital Statistics birth data to estimate the size of that bust and its rebound, for the country as a whole and separately for each state, and relate those changes to state-level factors. The onset of the pandemic in the late winter and early spring of 2020 resulted in 62,000 fewer conceptions leading to a live birth. This baby bust was followed by a rebound of 51,000 conceptions later that year, leading to a small net reduction in births conceived in 2020. We also find that a larger increase in the aggregate unemployment rate, a larger reduction in household spending, and higher cumulative COVID caseloads were associated with larger baby busts in the first part of the year. Births rebounded more in states that saw a larger improvement in the labor market and household spending. COVID caseloads played a smaller role. We conclude the paper by observing that these changes pale in comparison to the large decline in US birth rates that has occurred over the past 15 years.
This paper was prepared for the Societal Experts Action Committee (SEAN), an NBER initiative supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation under grant number G-2021-14121. The authors thank Taylor Landon for research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.