It was September 14, 2008. Lehman Brothers was still – technically – in business. And I was in labor.
The signs of economic collapse had been plentiful: gas prices had been on a crazy roller coaster, up one week, down the next; Bear Sterns had already collapsed months prior; homes in my neighborhood – which once sold in a matter of days – remained up for sale in an increasingly stagnant market; my employer had already been through its first round of layoffs, and unemployment across the country was climbing towards double digits.
But unbeknownst to me, the subsequent economic recession wasn’t the only recession in America at the time. Apparently, there was an overlapping “baby recession.” Starting in 2007, America’s birth rate entered a prolonged drop, which we’re only now pulling out of. According to the latest government data, 2014 was the first time since 2007 that the birth rate went up (though it’s still below pre-recession levels).
Why is a high birth rate important? Just ask Japan. The nation is in the midst of a decades-long drop in birth rate, which has put it on the verge of economic ruin. It’s meant a population that is disproportionately older, putting a strain on social and economic systems. The Japanese birth rate has stagnated at just 1.4 (that means 1.4 live births per woman of child-bearing age); by comparison, a healthy birth rate is closer to 2.1 – just enough to keep a country’s population gradually on the upswing. The US birth rate, at 1.9, is far from Japan’s catastrophic levels, but after nearly a decade of declines, it’s nice to see it moving in the right direction.
Last year, I wrote a post about whether or not anybody is ever really ready to have a baby. At the time, I said that my family’s decision came down to 3 main points: health of our relationship, professional concerns, and financial situation. For so many people, the Great Recession of 2008 (and beyond) absolutely crushed their professional and financial security – and anyone who’s ever battled through tough financial times knows that all that stress can put a strain on your marriage or romantic relationship.
So in hindsight, I guess it’s not surprising that a baby recession overlapped the actual recession; what is surprising is that I had two children during that period, and somehow failed to realize what was going on beyond my own front door. Yet the proof is all around me: my daughter’s class at school – the first group of children born during the Great Recession to head off to kindergarten and first grade – is significantly smaller than the older grades in our district.
What about you – did you realize there was a “Baby Recession” going on? Did you alter you or your family’s plans because of the tough economic times?