WASHINGTON, DC, June 9 — The pundits and prognosticators got it wrong. Some of them were predicting that the numbers of divorces would skyrocket due to COVID lockdowns; others were making bets that “forced togetherness” would lead to another Baby Boom.
However, the Brookings Institute reckons that there will be fewer babies this year as a result of the pandemic. And, the numbers of divorce filings have been dropping for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the extra time couples have had to reconcile their differences.
As far as the decline in births is concerned, the birth rate has been falling for quite some time, but “there is evidence that fertility rates could get even lower to due to COVID-19,” according to a Rand analysis. “An early COVID-19 survey fielded in May 2020 by the Guttmacher Institute asked women ages 18–49 about their reproductive intentions. More than a third of women reported that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided to get pregnant later or to have fewer children.”
The Brookings Institute report shows that “three months after the COVID pandemic began in earnest in the United States, we wrote a report suggesting that the public health crisis and associated recession would result in 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births in 2021. Six months later, we have been asked several times if we have an updated estimate. We have revisited the issue and stand by our initial prediction of a large reduction in births.”
The folks at Brookings point out that anxiety and social conditions that come with a health crisis, citing the 1918 Spanish Flu. “Back then, every spike in the death rate attributable to the flue was associated with a dramatic reduction in births nine months later.”
As for the decline in divorces, a recent New York Times article cited divorce lawyer Harriet Cohen who noted that while at the outset of the COVID crisis, there was a surge in divorces, now the divorce rate seems to be “plummeting.”
Cohen says, “So many negative things are currently happening that people are afraid to change the status quo and are staying married. It’s not that they won’t divorce in the future; it’s just that people do not have their ordinary outlets right now, they don’t leave the house that much, they don’t go to the office to continue affairs if they are having one, and of course, getting divorced is very expensive.”
The Times article also reported that relationship expert Lee Wilson sent surveys out to several thousand married couples in the spring of 2020 and found that nearly 30% of those who responded were headed for a divorce. Wilson conducted a second survey ten months later, in February of this year, and found that 17% of the respondents apparently felt that their isolation strengthened their relationships. “Many people in difficult marriages, for a variety of reasons, just worked it out.
They did what they thought was best for their situation.”
And then there was the New York lawyer whose client, a Wall Street financier whose marriage was not going so well. His marriage was on the rocks, and he was decidedly headed for a divorce. But pandemic forced the courts to close, putting the notion of divorce on hold. To make matters worse, he was home-bound.
The lawyer told the New York Post: “At first, I would get emails from him about how much this was a living nightmare and how he could not wait to leave. After about a month, his emails stopped.”
When the lawyer contacted his client to give him the good news that the courts had reopened and that he could finally file for divorce, the response he got came as a surprise.
The financier told him the COVID quarantine had given his marriage a “true second chance” and that he and his wife were working things out.