Is the birthrate in Victoria dropping fast?

One of the things I keep track off in covid-times is what is happening to births. Though it was initially suggested couples might use their extra lockdown-time to produce babies, it has become clear that in the Western world the opposite is true and that they reduce births by 10-20%.

How about Victoria, which is the state in Australia with the longest and strictest lockdowns? Well, I just downloaded the monthly birth statistics from the Victorian government. Those statistics tell about the number of birth registered by month, which thus allows for things like home birth that were only registered weeks later. The advantage of the series is that it is consistent over time (lockdowns or no lockdowns, all births have to be registered).

Month-Year Count
April 2021 5079
March 2021 6479
February 2021 5452
January 2021 5000
December 2020 5180
November 2020 6267
October 2020 6648
September 2020 7075
August 2020 6011
July 2020 4508
June 2020 7392
May 2020 6168
April 2020 6399
March 2020 6710
February 2020 6685
January 2020 5975
December 2019 6069
November 2019 6372
October 2019 8091
September 2019 5976

The data tells a clear story. There is a lot of variation by month, like the outlier in October 2019, suggesting some months are popular registration months. The key thing I wanted to know when looking this up is whether births dropped 8 months after lockdowns. Well, in the first four months of 2021, there were 22,010 births whilst in the first four months of 2020 there were 25,769. That is a drop of 17%, which is a big number and completely in line with what is found elsewhere in the West, but not strongly statistically significant. Victoria did see some out-migration, but only in the order of 1-2%, so not enough for the birth drop. Those first four months of 2021 contained babies conceived  from around April-August 2020, so the lockdown period. It will be interesting to see whether there is a rebound later in 2021.

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14 Responses to Is the birthrate in Victoria dropping fast?

  1. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    The problem is covid not lockdowns. It normally always is. A stringent lockdowns means too many people infected and too many have died.
    Add to that it is a new disease and we still do not know enough about it would make any rational couple wait until they feel the danger is over until attempting to have children.

  2. Andrew Norton says:

    Maybe a rebound reported in this story?

    • paul frijters says:

      possible and one does suspect a bit of a bounce-back but I will await the numbers showing up on the birth registers. We saw these ‘reported coming baby booms’ in various hospitals in Europe and the US in late 2020 too, but they turned out to be misleading. One possibility is that there is less hospital space and fewer midwives, so basically less supply of maternity services.

      • I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

        If a woman is going to have a child whether there is a labor surplus or shortage in maternity services is neither here nor there because they will have to have the child!

  3. ianl says:

    Tangentially, PF’s view that the Taiwanese and other populations in that region have experienced considerably less impact from C-19 than populations in more distant regions because they had some aquired immunity from SARS-1 has received some attention from credible researchers, although no convincing evidence of this has surfaced as far as I can ascertain.

    However, emails from the Taiwanese authorities to the WHO in December 2019 have now surfaced. The Taiwanese were monitoring mainland China’s internal health communication channels and instantly suspected a new person-to-person URTI had emerged. They sent a small team into Wuahan, who confirmed an alarm. The Taiwanese then closed their international borders on December 19th, 2019. They then advised all the global authorities of this.

    That early action is, I insist, the real policy reason for Taiwan’s lower impact. Aus universities together with the Canberra Feds were still trying to import students from the PRC in March 2020. For the money, of course. And with full knowledge of Taiwan’s early advice. Now Aus is in the catch22 of having a population biologically naive to C-19, with the vax programs in disarray and an MSM who screech incessantly to raise fear to ever greater heights.

    • paul frijters says:

      interesting, thanks for the update. What you say certainly seems possible. The fact that they tested little, did not lock down, and still saw their covid wave with about 7,000 confirmed cases dwindle to near nothing is an interesting combination. These are empirical issues that we at the end of the day should get clear answers for. And indeed, if there is prior immunity one should be able to find it.

      I presume you are referring to that SARS related study on Taiwan ?
      Bit of a strange write-up in that paper (they are struggling with their English!) but one key finding is “Cross-reactivity with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was observed in 80.0% of recovered SARS participants” which suggests SARS in 2003 protected against covid in 2020. But there are not that many former SARS patients and the more relevant question is cross-reactivity from more prevalent cold viruses (or something else), which it seems they did not look for. Do let me know if/when this question gets settled!

  4. KT2 says:

    “We know what you did during lockdown”. An FT Film written by James Graham

    Why did FT produce this?

    Paul, why are you tracking births?

    • paul frijters says:

      I have been tracking the births because I was looking for silver linings of the lockdowns. Last August, I even speculated about the early reports of a possible baby boom. Eg.

      Alas, no such silver lining in Western countries. Yet another cost. And a big one.

      • conrad says:

        Not such a cost unless you attribute an externality to something that doesn’t exist. I was also under the impression that the data on happiness and having children in terms of the parents was quite mixed with small effect sizes. Of course, there’s a lot more to life than happiness (one might wonder about the modern day preoccupation with it), but it’s unclear to me why you would consider this a key variable.

        • paul frijters says:

          it’s a tricky area, agreed, but your position is extreme. There will not be many who say that if there are no more generations after us, then that is ok because they would never have existed. I beg to differ.

          • conrad says:

            To me that’s one of the most useful things to come out of philosophy in the late 20 century — evaluating life better. If I’ve read that literature correctly, the externality is at the level of the individual so it is not an extreme position. The reason it was interesting is because most people implicitly believe something different to what the most accepted story ends up being after you argue about it for a decade or two. Perhaps we need one of Nick’s citizen juries :).

            At the level of the country, I imagine lots of different things go on that would have long-term effects (you probably don’t have to imagine these!). For example, lower both rates might be good for poorer high birth rate countries and bad for countries with low birth rates, and many of the variables that are important would be asymmetric (c.f., e.g., more resources for each individual in poorer countries vs. continuation of culture and long-term dependency ratios in richer ones). These are less philosophical and more answerable questions.

            • paul frijters says:

              “Perhaps we need one of Nick’s citizen juries :).”

              yes, I actually think this is the type of question they should be good at.
              In mainstream utilitarianism one maximises a discounted sum of utils over the generations, so changes in the size of that population then matter immediately. And yes, it rather matters where and how kids are raised. There is also the tricky business of national utilitarianism, which is essentially the version most Western countries adopt in their cost-benefit practises, and whole-of-humanity utilitarianism, which is a beast often talked about but never seen.

  5. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    it is a cost of covid.

    You would need good qualitative research to even speculate along those lines.
    It does take more than 9 months to ‘create’ a baby more so in an era of the pill!

    Stats really isn’t your go is it

  6. Chris Lloyd says:

    “but not strongly statistically significant.” Are these not Poisson counts? If so, it looks super significant from by back of the envelope calculation. But they look over-dispersed Poisson, maybe NB. I am not really au fait with the standard approach to birth count data.

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