Children are expensive: from diapers to college, there are high costs to having babies. The Agriculture Department estimates that middle-income families, who earn an average of $61,000 a year, spend about $11,000 each year on each child under the age of two.
It's not surprising, then, that many couples who already have kids are holding off on expanding their brood. Betsey Stevenson, assistant professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, explains: "Households that are facing severe budgetary issues that were thinking of having an additional child may decide that now's not a good time. For people who already have a couple kids, it may be that this permanently changes whether they ever go onto have an additional child."
On the flip side, first-time mothers seem to have seen the slowdown as a good opportunity to take themselves off the job market and start a family. One National Bureau of Economic Research paper found that an increase in the unemployment rate leads to a decrease in fertility. But once the researchers subtracted out the effect of the divorce rate and proportion of young marriages, they found that a rise in the unemployment rate actually increased fertility. One possibility, says Stevenson, is that women who get laid off decide it's a good time to have a kid because they have more time to care for it.
The longer the recession lasts, Stevenson predicts, the more likely it is that it will permanently affect family size. And, in fact, condom sales have jumped 6.4 percent nationally since 2008. Experts predict an upswing in pregnancies once the economic turmoil simmers down.
"There will be a baby boom," says Bonnie Eaker Weil, a couples therapist and author of Financial Infidelity.
A look back in history corroborates her theory. Consider the '50s: After a decade of economic woes coupled with war, people bounced back with the white picket fence, prosperous baby-boom era, where women were able to give up jobs held during wartime and returned home to have kids. For that reason, it's hard not to imagine a resurgence of baby-making as soon as the Dow Jones recovers.
Next: Weak Economy, Stronger Marriages?