Men Who Are Worried About a ‘Baby Bust’ Should Try Talking to Women by Erin Ryan
The notion that forced confinement leads to a spike in fertility rates has been debunked several times over.
There was no “blackout baby” surge nine months after New York City lost power for 10 hours in 1965. Evidence of “Hurricane Sandy babies,” “blizzard babies” and even “9/11 babies” has been apocryphal at best.
Despite stories suggesting otherwise, statistics show that disaster baby booms are urban legends since storms and blackouts don’t cause couples to throw caution and contraception to the wind.
And yet, here we are more, more than half a million deaths later, again scratching our heads over the fact that a serious interruption of everyday life didn’t cause couples nationwide to throw caution and contraception to the wind.
…I put “alarming” in scare quotes because many aspects of this conversation are irksome.
First, while falling fertility rates might be bad for the mathematics of the economy, they tend to be good for women, the people who are biologically tasked with actually giving birth.
Higher education and income tends to correspond to having fewer children, and women with fewer children also tend to be healthier themselves, and have healthier families because there are fewer people sharing finite resources.
And, speaking of resources, human beings tend to use an awful lot of resources, and introducing fewer of them into an overtaxed ecosystem is good for the environment.
Healthier women, less starvation, less stress on the environment—none of this is bad. But research has shown that there are women in the world who would like to have more children, but who choose not to because of reasons beyond their control.
Maybe having more children is too expensive where they live, or too much of a health risk given the availability of reproductive health care.
Here in the U.S., shouldering the expense of health care during pregnancy and childbirth, plus affording a single-family home in a market bloated by investor speculation, plus affording childcare, plus paying off student loan debts while saving for the future impossibly expensive education of a child is a pretty impossible ask for couples that don’t enjoy the benefits of generational wealth.
If boosting the birth rate is essential to stave off economic catastrophe, then why aren’t more economists arguing in favor of making the work of motherhood more attractive for women?