Are we headed towards a baby boom?

Article by Kasey Edwards /
May 19, 2020 /
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Armchair sociology tells us that nine months after a major event there’s a baby boom. Think the Baby Boomers at the end of World War II and those urban legends about power outages leading to little bundles of joy.

So what could months of being in lockdown do for our baby-making instincts?

It’s not just the boredom after exhausting all the good stuff on Netflix, but also the constant reminders of our own mortality in the form of daily death counts, that may be enough to make even a misanthrope think about the future of the species.

Are we on the precipice of welcoming the arrival of Generation C — a boom in babies conceived during the coronavirus lockdown?

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy from the University of Melbourne, Dr Lauren Rosewarne says that boredom is not likely to play much of a role in a baby boom.

“I don’t think boredom will be responsible for an increase in babies: having sex out of boredom is one thing, having sex but forgetting to use contraception is another,” Dr Rosewarne says.

And social distancing makes it even less likely that there will many happy accidents resulting from casual hook-ups. Anyone who invites a stranger back to their place is likely to get dobbed by their neighbour and the risk of being slogged with a $1652 fine is perhaps the best contraception ever devised.

Demographer Simon Kuestenmacher agrees that a corona baby boom is unlikely to materialise, joking that the only babies being conceived during iso are going to be first-born children.

“We do know from previous academic studies that after a pandemic, the birth rates actually go down,” says Kuestenmacher.

While comparisons have been drawn between fighting a pandemic and fighting a war, Kuestenmacher says the effects on population are very different.

“With World War II you had six years of soul-destroying war across the world, and then all of a sudden you have a peace declaration. You had this pent-up demand where the men had died or they were overseas and unavailable to make the babies,” says Kuestenmacher.

And unlike at the end of the Second World War, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be freed from COVID-19 in an instant and we’re all going to pour out onto to the streets and have weeks of partying and romping.

“We won’t announce a vaccine on Monday and then by Friday the whole world is vaccinated. This will be very much a long dragged out process back into normal,” says Kuestenmacher.

And, after finally being freed from the juggle of home-schooling while also trying to maintain your job, your relationship and your sanity, those of us with kids already may not be in a rush to add another child into the mix.

As one LinkedIn user said in reply to a question about the likelihood of a post-COVID baby boom, “Spending 24/7 with the wife and 3 kids for 3 weeks. Both of us working from home, kids start home schooling next week. 4th child is not looking likely right now. :-)”

Far from a baby boom, Kuestenmacher predicts a coming “baby dip”, driven by accessible cheap, effective contraception, a highly educated population that engages in family planning, and an uncertain economic outlook.

“If you see the economy shrink, if you see your own super balance or stock portfolio shrink by 30–40 per cent, maybe your friends or you become unemployed, you don’t jump as readily into the big future commitment of raising a child.”

The baby dip will be exacerbated by disruptions to our migrant intake.

“Something like 80–90 per cent of migrants are between 18 and 38. And these are the people that will have babies over the next decade,” says Kuestenmacher. “If we have fewer of those people in the country, they will add fewer babies to Australia.”

Still, over the longer term, there is likely to be an increase in population. But it will have little to do with romantic nights in lockdown or joyous post-corona conceptions.

In keeping with Australians’ obsession with real estate, it will have to do with falling property prices and the large cohort of Millennials reaching their peak baby-making years.

Kuestenmacher says that the one thing that Australians won’t compromise on when it comes to housing is the number of bedrooms. With property prices predicted to fall, the chances of Millennials affording their house with a nursery in the ‘burbs goes up.

“Millennials are not yet homeowners so they are looking at the news headlines of a 20 per cent market crash as a promise,” says Kuestenmacher.

As boring as it is, the most likely driver of Generation C won’t be us Living La Vida Lockdown but rather that other great basic drive: property prices.