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Economics

Americans Aren’t Making Babies, and That’s Bad for the Economy

The U.S. could see 500,000 fewer births next year, which will have repercussions long after the pandemic is over.
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Illustration: Derek Zheng for Bloomberg Businessweek

Pandas and white rhinos aren’t the only creatures that are unsuccessful at mating in captivity. The folk wisdom that humans will copulate when left with nothing else to do—dubbed the blackout babies theory—surfaces regularly in the immediate aftermath of disasters, but the baby boom never materializes.

The Covid-19 pandemic spawned predictions that stay-at-home orders would eventually deliver a baby bump. Yet far from having more children than usual, Americans are expecting fewer.