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Remote work spawns mini baby boom, economists say

Oct. 20 (UPI) — An uptick in the number of women working from home since the start of the pandemic has contributed to a mini baby boom, according to a new study that claims the increase in births reversed two years of declining fertility in the United States.

A working paper, published by three economists, found that 46,000 more children were born in the United States after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning with a small increase in births in 2020 and a larger “baby bump” last year.

Overall, the nation’s fertility rate jumped by about 6.3% compared to pre-pandemic trends, the study said.

“Our results suggest that unlike any other economic downturn in recent history, the COVID-19 recession increased rather than decreased fertility among U.S.-born women,” said Hannes Schwandt, a professor at Northwest University, who coauthored the paper with Martha Bailey of UCLA and Janet Currie of Princeton.

“The 2021 baby bump is the first major reversal in declining U.S. fertility rates since 2007 and was most pronounced for first births and women under age 25, which suggests the pandemic led some women to start their families earlier,” the study said.

While the study found the pandemic “baby bump” was more pronounced for first-time mothers, it was also strong for college-educated women who were more likely to work from home during what became an unprecedented rise in remote work among more educated Americans.

The study also argued COVID-19 stimulus funds played a role in the baby boom, as the federal government spent more than $750 billion in unemployment benefits to keep millions of U.S. workers, whose jobs were impacted by forced closures, at home.

While the study says a lack of reproductive healthcare and abortion during the pandemic may have contributed in small part to increased births, the authors claim the “baby bump” is ongoing. Births remain “elevated at a level similar to 2021 through the third quarter of 2022.”

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