Remote Work Might Have Led To Today’s Mini Baby Boom
A new study explores the connection between flexibility at work and making babies.
The U.S. birthrate has been in dramatic decline for decades — beginning in the 1960s and really taking a hit after the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Population declines are worrisome to experts on many fronts, including the implications for economic and social decline. But according to a new study, a reversal of the trends might be more straightforward than previously assumed.
At the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, there was plenty of speculation about a future COVID-19 baby boom since more people would be spending time at home and bored. The conjecture was mostly that bored people have sex, so more babies would arrive in 2021 than expected.
Although that didn’t necessarily pan out as expected, there still might be a COVID-adjacent baby boom in the works — and it’s because so many people are now working from home.
Analysts from the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan economic advocacy group, examined data compiled for the 2022 Demographic Intelligence Survey, a survey intended to gather data regarding fertility and family planning intentions. The data sample was collected from 3,000 U.S. women aged 18 to 44. The new study based off of this survey has not been published in a scientific journal and has not been peer-reviewed.
Analysts found that women who worked remotely were more likely to either be pregnant or trying to become pregnant than those who did not work remotely. However, that relationship was only statistically significant when looking at women whose financial situations were “much better” than they had been the previous year; those who were working remotely and whose financial situations were stable or had worsened were not more likely to be pregnant or trying to get pregnant than women of the same financial situation working in an office.
Women whose finances had greatly improved were 10 percentage points more likely to report being pregnant or trying to conceive while working remotely. According to the researchers, remote work appears “to help women in improving circumstances to capitalize on those improvements and convert financial success into family life.”
The team also found that women working remotely who did not have children, or who had only one child, were less likely to be pregnant or be trying to conceive than women who had multiple children. This effect was also dependent on age and a woman’s ideal family size. According to the research report, “Remote work doesn’t necessarily trigger women to initiate childbearing, but it may help older women balance the competing demands of work and family and thereby to achieve their family goals.”
Although the trend seems limited to women in improving financial situations, the supposition that remote work increases the likelihood of pregnancy should not be ignored. It indicates that increased flexibility in work scheduling in general might be one solution to the problem of population decline, particularly in women over the age of 35.
The results of the study reinforce the idea that greater flexibility in work is a boon to families and the economic and social structure of the country as a whole. Countless studies have shown the benefit of increased social safety net programs such as expanded or universal childcare, guaranteed family income, and guaranteed paid leave — and they might be the shot in the arm the U.S. needs to stop population decline and prevent large-scale economic harm.
Ample evidence shows that workplace- or government-supported programs are beneficial for families, and it’s not difficult to surmise that with greater social support, people will grow their families.
Check out the full data from the Economic Innovation Group’s report here.
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