One of our young friends shared some exciting news with us this week: she and her husband are expecting their first child in December. Their happy news makes you wonder whether we should be anticipating a “shutdown surge” of baby births in December, January, and February.
It’s folk wisdom that you look for a baby boom nine months after unusual circumstances, like enforced shutdowns. bring people together, but there apparently isn’t much evidence supporting that notion. To be sure, there was the famous, extended post-World War II Baby Boom — Kish and I are living evidence of that — spurred by people who had served for years in the armed forces returning home, finding an America that had recovered from the Great Depression, and starting large families. But most of the other instances where people have looked for evidence substantiating the folk wisdom — be they government shutdowns, or the great New York City blackout of 1965 — have found no great spike in baby births nine months later.
Experts are skeptical that we’re going to see a bunch of coronavirus kids, either. They reason, quite logically, that an enforced shutdown isn’t going to cause couples living together to change their contraception practices, and in fact the birth rate might decline because the closure of bars, events, and other social gatherings means there won’t be the opportunity for casual encounters that might otherwise lead to births. In reality, though, no one knows, because we’ve never had an enforced two-and-a-half-month stay-at-home period before. It will be something to be mindful of nine months from now. If we do see a surge of births, it will be a nice, upbeat coda to a very difficult time.
And speaking of the experts and difficult times, they’re confident we’ll see a surge in another kind of family-related activity as a result of the shutdown and stay-at-home decrees — divorces.