WASHINGTON, October 20, 2013 — After approximately two weeks of federal employees staying home during the government shutdown, many are expecting a marked increase in new births of “furlough babies.” Since federal employees are particularly concentrated in the metro area, it is believed that this region will be uniquely affected by the shutdown.
According to the Office of Personnel Management “302,000 Federal employees work in the immediate Washington, DC, area (defined as the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland; Arlington and Fairfax Counties, and the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church in Virginia).”
Spikes in births are thought be a common occurrence when people are required to stay home. After the D.C. area’s “Snowmaggedon” storms of 2010, Silver Spring’s Holy Cross Hospital expanded its staff to accommodate an expected 75% jump in child births.
In 1965, the New York Times first reported on baby booms after a major power outage in New York City that lasted a mere ten hours. A 1970 paper from Richard Udry (a researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) asserts that there is no proof of any type of baby boom after incidents where adults are required to stay at home. Udry’s research, however, only accounted for a relatively short incident, whereas federal employees were prevented from coming to work for 16 days.
The Washington City Paper throws cold water on the idea of mini baby booms, arguing increases in births are not statistically significant.
Critics disagree with the statistical argument, because the recent shutdown was a unique event, and not easily predictable by historical trends. However only time will tell the winner of this debate.
The number of births in Maryland is 12.8 per every 1000 individuals, according to National Vital Statistics Reports published by the Centers for Disease Control in its most recent study, dated 2010. Virginia’s birth rate is mostly the same, at 12.9 per every 1000 individuals, while the District of Columbia features a slightly higher statistic of 15.2 births for every 1000 persons. Increases to these numbers may be essential in determining if the furlough baby phenomenon is real.
For a typical pregnancy, babies conceived during the furlough are expected to be born in late June or early July of next year. Of course, BabyCenter.com reminds expectant parents “Only 1 in 20 women delivers on her due date. You’re just as likely to go into labor any day during the two weeks before or after.”
Of course, it is not possible to ascertain pregnancy so quickly, as pregnancy tests do not become effective until some weeks after conception. Accordingly, most of the parents of next summer’s furlough babies likely do not yet know if they are pregnant.