Can pregnancy rates predict a recession?

Analysis shows number of women falling pregnant drops several months before the start of an economic downturn

Pregnancy
(Image credit: Angel Valentin/Getty Images)

Pregnancy rates could be used to predict an imminent economic recession, new research from US academics has suggested.

The authors of Is Fertility a Leading Economic Indicator? tracked more than 100 million births in the US between 1989 and 2016 and found that the rate of conceptions began to fall several months before an economic downturn.

The BBC says “economists are frequently criticised for failing to accurately predict the direction of economic growth [and] increasingly they are looking beyond traditional measures such as manufacturing output, retail spending and house prices to help build a more complex and accurate picture”.

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It has long been accepted that birth rates decline as a result of falling consumer confidence in the middle of a recession, but now it appears that pregnancy rates could be used to predict future economic productivity before it starts to decline.

There also appears to be a link between the rate of fertility decline and the scale of the subsequent downturn, and the report’s authors say it is more accurate than many traditional indicators.

Summarising their findings, Daniel Hungerman, Kasey Buckles and Steven Lugauer suggested proxy data like the sale of fertility and pregnancy related goods should be monitored for signs of an impending economic downturn.

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