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Shrinking Economy Puts Baby on Hold

The Last Four U.S. Recessions Have Been Followed by Declines in the Country’s Fertility Rate

Recession and Babies: The Current Economic Crisis

The NCHS data cannot provide any insight into the current economy's effect on the fertility rate. In addition to the length of pregnancy, it takes a while for the NCHS to compile data. The most recent birth rate information available is from 2005.

But using history as a lesson, Carl Haub, demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, says he expects to see a slight drop in the fertility rate in the United States. If the economy gets worse -- and people become as scared as they were in the mid-'70s amid the oil crisis -- the drop may be more dramatic, he says.

The shifts typically are not sudden -- in either direction. "There is a certain amount of lag time," Haub says. "When the economy improves, it is not like people rush out and say, 'Let's have a baby.'"

Khalil Tabsh, chief of obstetrics at UCLA, says he expects to see fewer families having third and fourth children, especially among the middle class. "If you have two kids and you aren't sure if you are going to lose your job, you are going to think twice about having another baby," he says. He has not yet seen a decrease in his patient load.

Recessions and Babies: Infertility Treatments

Hilton Kort, a fertility doctor and the founder of Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta, also says he has not seen a shift so far. Since he began practicing in vitro fertilization in 1983, he has not seen his business fluctuate with economy.

After Sept. 11, he even saw an increase as people worried less about material things and more "about what is really important, and that's having a family," he says.

In good and bad times, most of his patients are concerned about finances because many insurance companies do not cover fertility treatments. His firm puts patients in touch with companies that offer low-interest loans, and so far, those companies have not tightened requirements for credit.

The only economic impact he's seen so far? More patients are saying they'd like to have twins, a relatively common result of fertility treatments. Though he and other doctors have worked to reduce multiple births because of potential pregnancy complications, some couples want twins because they can only afford to complete the process once and they want two children, Kort says.

Recessions and Babies: A Different Decision

Jennifer Gniadecki, 33, and her husband also reconsidered their plans. Already the parents of two young girls, the couple wanted to try for a boy. Gniadecki, who does freelance writing for companies including Wal-Mart, is busy with work now but never knows how much she will have a few months down the road. If the economy gets worse, she fears she might lose her income.

Her husband works in online advertising, "but we can't trust he will keep that full-time job if there is a recession," she says.

The Chicago-area couple ultimately decided to cut back on spending but still try to conceive another baby. "It is knowing what's important," she says.

With a laugh, she adds: "The more children we have, the more likely it is that one of them will take care of us when we're old."

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