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.
In bedrooms across the U.S., couples are making decisions that, in the aggregate, could prove as consequential for the long-term health of our economy as those taken by policymakers in Washington. Fewer children now means fewer consumers, workers, and taxpayers in the future. In other words, a smaller economy than otherwise—though also a smaller environmental footprint, which brings its own rewards.