HARLINGEN – When most of the country was under stay-at-home orders, the internet joked there would be a baby boom with hashtag #QuarantineAndChill and memes. All jokes aside, the data and economic theory suggest family planning isn’t on the list of priorities.
Since 1971, the U.S.’s birth rate has been in a downward trend according to U.S. Census data and the Center for Disease Control. Households have scaled back the number of children in families and COVID-19 has dropped the trend lower, “temporarily you’re going to see a small decline from the trend but eventually going to go back to trend and it’s going to continue in this downward trajectory,” explained University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Associate Professor Salvador Contreras.
Taking a close look at the birthrates in the U.S., increase in unemployment and COVID-19’s impact on the economy, Contreras said, “the unemployment rates in the RGV is somewhere around 17%, so we know that it is some three times what it was at the turn of the year. We know that the RGV is clearly in a recession and it is likely to be so for months if not years to come. If we put it in that context then we could say that it is very likely that the fertility rate in the RGV for example will continue to decline.”
The decline, according to Contreras, could go longer than COVID-19 health crisis and the higher unemployment rate, ”whenever there is an economic shock, as the one we are observing right now with COVID-19, then people’s incomes are negatively impacted. As a result, they are far more likely to delay the decision to have children, whatever their childbearing decisions we’re going to be in the first place.”
Contreras projects a negative impact on births per thousand women in the next year or two.