There will not be a Covid-19 baby boom straight after the pandemic because couples will be too concerned about their money, experts predict.
Throughout history, spikes in deaths due to war, disease or famine have been followed by wave of pregnancies as countries get back to normal.
People thought this might have after the Covid-19 because couples were spending more time together and might have more sex.
But births are likely to decline after the crisis because the impact of lockdowns will be so long-term, Italian researchers say.
Financial strain will probably be the biggest reason couples in wealthy countries are put off parenthood.
Widespread redundancies have been the result of months-long lockdowns, and with less money, rearing a child won’t be so attractive.
School closures would also have led couples to re-assess childcare whether they already have a child or not.
Poorer countries have already seen births decline over recent decades and the coronavirus is likely to continue this downward trajectory, the researchers believe.
There will not be a Covid-19 baby boom straight after the pandemic because couples will be too concerned about their money, experts predict
The researchers at Bocconi University, Milan, said: ‘There are frequent claims that the ongoing pandemic will result in a “baby boom”.
‘Couples, it is argued, spend more time with each other and, as such, they are more likely to procreate. The empirical evidence for this is sparse.’
The team considered previous baby booms in the past and what spurred them on to estimate what will happen in the coming years.
After World War II, the end of hardship worldwide led to celebration among couples who may have been torn apart for years, while widows may have sought new relationships.
FERTILITY DROPS TO RECORD LOW IN ENGLAND AND WALES
Fertility rates for women under 30 in England and Wales have dropped to a record low, official figures revealed today.
But data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of over-40s giving birth has risen to a record-high.
Some 29,618 women over 40 had a child in 2019 — at a rate of 16.5 births per 1,000 women, more than triple the figure of 5.3 in 2000.
Women are increasingly putting off starting a family in their twenties when they are more fertile, often delaying motherhood to focus on their careers.
Increased access to higher education, higher employment rates and the ‘increased importance of a career’ are factors behind the soaring rates of older mothers.
And the ONS also said the reason could be down to women delaying motherhood because of uncertain labour market conditions or housing.
Figures show overall the number of births are falling, and fewer than one in every 10 women under between the ages of 25 and 30 had a baby last year, a record-low figure.
But older women are the only age group that is bucking the trend.
The conception rate among women aged 40 and over has been climbing since 1977, according to the ONS.
And the average age of a woman giving birth in England and Wales in 2019 was 30.7 — the oldest since records began 90 years ago.
But after the Spanish flu, between 1918 and 1919 with several other waves, birth rates dropped for a while.
This owed to a fear of the baby being infected as well as the deaths of adults of reproductive age.
Unlike the Spanish influenza, Covid-19 affects the elderly most, and so the potential of a dry birth spell cannot be put down to deaths among adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Professor Arnstein Aassve and colleagues drew the conclusion that post-Covid fertility will plausibly decline due to economic uncertainty and increased childcare burdens.
Raising a child costs money, and therefore it may seem unfeasible to adults who are struggling with money due to job losses.
This was the experience of the 2008 Great Recession, when overall fertility declined, particularly in countries that had the strongest economic downturns.
A high level of uncertainty about the future would also likely put couples off having a baby.
In high-income countries, new parents often rely on childcare. But during the pandemic, children have been forced back into the homes due to nursery and school closures.
‘In as much as this imposes a heavier burden on parents’ time, the lockdown will result in lower desired fertility and childbearing postponements in the short term,’ Professor Aassve believes.
In low- and middle-income countries, fertility has declined in recent decades due to trends such as urbanization and more women getting jobs.
This is unlikely to be fundamentally reversed by economic setbacks caused by Covid-19, the paper said.
However, difficulties in accessing family planning services could cause a spike in unintended pregnancies, which was seen after the West African Ebola crisis.
The scientists’ paper was published today by Science Magazine, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Professor Aassve said: ‘Although it is difficult to make precise predictions, a likely scenario is that fertility will fall, at least in high-income countries and in the short run.’
Despite the potential for a fertility drop off in the short-term, the researchers did not rule out that it would quickly pick back up again.
The team wrote: ‘Recent studies focusing on the short-term fertility consequences of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, find that peaks in mortality are generally followed by birth troughs within a year.
‘Whereas studies focusing on a longer time frame, from one to five years following the event, have unveiled patterns of increasing fertility.
‘Drivers of these medium-term rebounds are the desire of parents to replace lost children. In the wake of unexpected mortality shocks, fertility may also take on a symbolic meaning, as new births become a positive reframing mechanism, signaling a return to normality.’