Throughout human history, surges in mortality due to wars, pandemics, and crop failures have been followed by periods of increasing fertility. But contrary to this trend, the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to lead to a decrease in human fertility. An article about this was published in Science. “While it is difficult to make accurate predictions, the most likely scenario is a decline in fertility, at least in high-income countries and in the short term,” says social and political science co-author Arnstein Aasswe.
So, in developed countries, the violation of the organization of family life, as well as economic problems will lead to “delayed childbirth.” Falling birth rates, in turn, will accelerate population aging and decline, with negative consequences for public policy.
In turn, in countries with low and middle income per capita, the Covid-19 pandemic will intensify emerging trends that are already reducing birth rate growth. The authors of the article include economic development, urbanization, and an increase in the proportion of women among workers. Scientists believe that the economic problems caused by the pandemic will generally not disrupt these trends.
The new findings contradict the long-held belief that pandemics always lead to a baby boom. The main reason for this is allegedly that couples spend more time together and have a better chance of conceiving offspring. However, empirical evidence for such a relationship is rare. According to the authors of the new work, the main driving forces behind the surges infertility after pandemics are the desire of families to make up for the loss of children, as well as structural shifts in expectations regarding the probability of offspring survival.
Unlike most epidemics (the authors cite the example of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919), Covid-19 poses a greater threat to the elderly than to minors. Thus, according to the researchers, mortality and morbidity in children and people of reproductive age do not serve as a mechanism for negative short-term changes infertility and will not lead to a “demographic rebound” later.