Coronavirus baby boom unlikely, experts say

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Will we see a baby boom nine months later, because so many couples are locked inside with nowhere to go?

In fact, they say that the United States will likely see the number of births decrease. And other notable population displacements are also likely.

“There is no way the number of births will increase,” said Kenneth Johnson, professor of sociology and demographer at the University of New Hampshire. “This is not the kind of environment in which people say,” Let’s bring a child into the world now. “”

Even before the pandemic started, demographers say a combination of factors – fewer births, more deaths and less immigration – was already creating a “perfect storm” slowing population growth in the country.

Add to that the changes that the coronavirus should make on all of these fronts, and this storm will only intensify.

Why we probably won’t see a baby boom

Financial uncertainty often forces people to postpone – or even give up – decisions to have children.

Concrete example: the aftermath of the Great Recession, the economic slowdown that began in late 2007.

“Fertility has dropped considerably. It’s not unusual. This often happens during tough economic times, “says Johnson.

But what is surprising, says Johnson, is that since then, the birth rate has not rebounded. It has been decreasing ever since.

And demographers say the uncertainty fueled by the new coronavirus pandemic is not going to improve matters.

In a pandemic, to baby or not to baby?

This disaster is not the same as a power outage or a hurricane, says Rogelio Sáenz, a professor in the Department of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“These are short-term things that are happening. It will be an extremely long-lived event, and one that will also have economic impacts. … Economic uncertainty really affects fertility, “he said. “This is likely to lead to an even greater decline in fertility and births. “

Last year, there were 3.79 million births in the United States, the lowest number since 1986.

Last year more people than ever died in the United States

As births decline, the number of people dying in the United States is increasing. Last year, the number of deaths reached a record 2.83 million.

“It’s mainly because the population is aging,” says Johnson. “The death rate for the elderly is increasing. “

On Friday March 27, 2020, William Samuels delivers coffins to the Gerard Neufeld funeral home in the Queens district of New York.

Here’s why these numbers are important to watch:

When there are more births than deaths, the difference between these two figures is known as the “natural increase” in the population. When there are more deaths than births, we speak of “natural decrease”. Overall, the US population is still experiencing a “natural increase”, but barely.

If the number of deaths begins to exceed the number of births, social tensions can ensue. Imagine an increasing number of people retiring, but fewer young people in the workforce, or an increasing number of older people without enough people to care for them.

And already, the United States is closer than ever to this.

Recently released government data shows the country’s population growth rate is the lowest it has been in more than a century. It was only 0.48% last year, the lowest since 1919, the last time a pandemic struck. In the United States, approximately 675,000 people have died from the flu pandemic.

Nurses care for victims of the pandemic flu outside in 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

As Johnson pointed out in a recent analysis of census data, first reported by the New York Times, in almost half of the counties in the country, more people died than were born last year. And nationally, the gap between the number of people who died and the number of people born was smaller than it has been in decades.

Now take into account the coronavirus.

White House officials shared a disastrous message this week telling Americans that they should be ready for 100,000 to 240,000 people to die nationwide as a result of the pandemic.

Some experts – including CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta – have warned that the death toll may end up being higher, since orders for social distancing are not yet in place throughout the United States .

What does this mean for the rate of growth of the American population? Demographers say it is too early to tell.

“It could certainly be the lowest growth rate in US history,” said Johnson.

If the death toll ends up being higher than the White House model predicts, the United States could experience something that has never happened before: a year-over-year drop in their population.

“There is a potential for population loss in the coming year,” says Sáenz.

William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says the past decade is already on the verge of being the slowest for population growth in the history of the United States. But he doesn’t think the coronavirus will move the needle as much when it comes to the overall number of the population.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this Covid-19 will cause us to become a declining population. I think it’s a shorter term thing and things will sort of bounce back, “he said. “We will have normal death rates in the future. There will be short-term changes in the population. “

Immigration had already dropped. Then the borders closed in the world

When the natural growth rate of the population slows, immigration has historically made a difference. But that too is falling.

From July 2018 to July 2019, immigration to the United States fell to a net gain of about 595,000 people, said Frey. Compare that to a few years ago, when it was close to a million.

“This is by far the lowest year we have known for immigration since at least the 1990s,” he said.

US customs officers stand next to a sign at the Canada-US border in Lansdowne, Ontario, March 22, 2020.

And given that fears of coronaviruses have fueled unprecedented efforts by countries around the world to close their borders and impose travel restrictions, we probably won’t see an increase anytime soon.

Frey says he expects immigration to climb again, but it is unclear when.

“Really, immigration is sort of our only hope of keeping things stable. … Immigration can make a difference and it has made a difference, “he says. “Immigrants and their children are younger than the rest of the population. Latinos and other minorities make up more than half of all births in the United States. “

So in the midst of all this uncertainty, what will happen next with births in the United States is important – even if a baby boom coronavirus is unlikely.

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