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Boom or bust? Shifts in births and fertility rates across the highly developed countries during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tomas Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography
Aiva Jasilioniene, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Ainhoa Alustiza, Max-Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Krystof Zeman, Vienna Institute of Demography
Laszlo Nemeth, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR)
Maria Winkler-Dworak, Vienna Institute of Demography
Dmitri A. Jdanov, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Germany) / National Research University Higher School of Economics (Russia)

Past evidence on fertility responses to external shocks show that people often put their childbearing plans on hold in uncertain times. We study the most recent data on monthly birth trends to analyse the initial fertility responses to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research, based on new Short-Term Fertility Fluctuations (STFF) data series (https://www.humanfertility.org/cgi-bin/stff.php), embedded in the Human Fertility Database (HFD), shows wide differences in monthly birth trends in late 2020 and early 2021 between countries and over time. Most countries experienced a brief baby bust between November 2020 and February 2021, associated with pregnancies initiated during the first wave of the pandemic in Spring 2020. This downturn was sharpest in Southern Europe, where year-to-year number of births in December 2020-January 2021 fell by 12% in Italy, 14% in Portugal and 20% in Spain. By contrast, the data for February-March 2021 indicate a brief baby boom in many countries, arguably linked to a temporary easing of the pandemic in Summer 2020. This evidence suggests that short-term birth trends during the COVID-19 pandemic may follow cycles of temporary busts and recoveries, driven by the cycles of rising and falling infections and deaths.

Keywords: COVID-19, Fertility and childbirth, Cross-country comparative analyses

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 171. COVID-19 and Fertility