Covid-19 and the Future of US Fertility: What Can We Learn from Google?
Joshua Wilde1, Sophie Lohmann1, Wei Chen2
1Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, 2Fordham University
Using data from Google Trends, we predict the effect of the Covid19 pandemic on future births in the United States. We show that in the months preceding a period of above-normal births in a state, there are more Google searches for pregnancy-related keywords, and less searches for unemployment. Including these terms in prediction models improves forecast accuracy by approximately 25% over a number of cross-validation criteria. We then use data on recent state-level Google searches during the Covid19 pandemic to predict changes in aggregate fertility rates in the United States through February 2021. Our analysis suggests that between November 2020 and February 2021, monthly US births will drop sharply by approximately 15%. For context, this would be a 50% larger decline than that following the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and similar in magnitude to the declines following the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 and the Great Depression.