A short note on delivery dates of both kinds.

The baby product market was facing frustrating shortages in early 2021.  Pregnant women were frantically pestering customer support, since mothers couldn’t push one delivery date to match another.  Ho hum, you say, join the pandemic shortage club!  But there’s more to this story than supply chains or stockpiling. A popular baby registry site, Babylist, reported the some of the items flying out the door were branded strollers, bassinets, and diaper changing pads.[1]  Were people stockpiling cribs and strollers?  Clearly not!

Although supply chain disruptions did stall this market, there are always two sides to a market: supply AND demand.  At the onset of COVID, we saw a sharp baby “bust,” where uncertainty and anxiety about the future led to a drop in pregnancies.  However, as the pandemic wore on, a baby “bump” appeared- one of the few upticks in a decade-long downward trend in the U.S. birthrate.  Why?

Well, yes, everyone had a lot of time at home.  However, late pandemic births were not equally spread among women, but concentrated in college-educated women.  These women were likely more financially secure during the pandemic and enjoying more flexible remote work, both increasing the ease of having a family.  Importantly, these births were more likely to be to first-time moms.[2]  More first births means increased demand for all the baby equipment– all those things you later realize were just as interesting to your baby as a cardboard box!

Or as second-time parents call this: "portable crib!"

Could this mini baby “boom” offer us a path to reversing the long-term decline in U.S. birthrates?  Although the latest birth data shows the boom may have receded, remote work is similarly receding from the workplace.  Would more flexibility and ability to work from home nurture both business growth and toddlers?  Could be a baby step! [3]

[1] Ember, Sydney, and Sapna Maheshwari. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Supply Chain Issues.” The New York Times , 29 Dec. 2021, Accessed 22 October 2023.

[2] You can read the original research paper here, or a nice summary of the issue in this posting.

[3] I know. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help myself!


2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:06 AM
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I wonder if there is also a psychological factor at work. Something along the lines of: a major world crisis, especially one that causes a lot of deaths, makes you think about the ephemeral nature of life and what's really important, and you either decide to have kids or to stop putting it off. Imagine someone reading about deaths among the elderly and thinking, “I really want Mom and Dad to meet their grandkids—better get on it.”

Curious if Claudia Goldin's work is relevant here?

Yes, the psychological factor is often cited for discrete events that bring people closer together or highlight a stark idea of what is important in their life.  But did COVID initially present a more troubling future?  That might work against this idea, because you are pessimistic about the future of a world subject to a global pandemic.  However, your point might hold differently for the women highlighted here, since they are in a much more secure place than their peers subject to exposure and uncertainty about their employment.  

I've also seen discussion about how the opportunity cost of time-- what else women could be doing during this period-- fast-forwarded plans.  Nothing much to do with my free time- might as well have a baby! That could speak to Claudia's work because her thesis about women's late fertility has to do with the cost of establishing a career.  The time cost of this delays having a family.  In the COVID period, many time costs were slashed- i.e. commuting, meetings, besides most social obligations.  Might have seemed more feasible to start families with a 2000/2001 view of the balance of time available for both pursuits.