Outside the Box: Work from home policies could boost the U.S. birth rate and help women balance career and family.

by | Mar 26, 2023 | Stock Market

A nation’s future economic prosperity rests in large part on the size of the next generation, yet not as many American women are having children, and those who do are having fewer. The replacement rate, or the number of children needed to keep a country’s population stable, is 2.1 births per woman; in the U.S. that figure is now 1.6.   What if an economic shock, of a proportion not seen in a century, could help move the birth rate in a positive direction?  That is what the COVID pandemic has the potential to do — not the virus itself, of course, but the technology that allowed people to work from their homes during the lockdown. 

“ The flexibility of working from home boosted birth rates during the pandemic. ”

The U.S. experienced a slight uptick in births last year, and remote work could be a factor. New research by Lyman Stone and Adam Ozimek for the Economic Innovation Group found that the remote work phenomenon has spurred several positive, small changes in terms of family formation.  First, the flexibility of working from home boosted birth rates during the pandemic, specifically for more educated women. Second, unmarried remote workers were more likely to get married than their work-in-person counterparts, with marriage generally leading to childbearing.  Stone and Ozimek also report that for women over 35, particularly those over 39, remote work increased childbearing intentions (as was also the case among women whose household finances improved), with their pregnancy intentions increasing 10%. The biggest effect of remote work they found was that women who already had several children decided to have more. The U.S. isn’t alone in suffering from low and declining birth rates — most of the developed world, including China, has the same problem. But that’s little comfort given the implications for the U.S. economy writ-large, with fewer (and aging) workers hurting productivity, economic growth, innovation and the ability to pay for programs like Medicare and Social Security. Although it’s well-understood that economic prosperity and urbanization lead to lower birth rates, researchers are unsure why birthrates have fallen to such dire levels. Po …

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