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Kai Ryssdal: Recessions have this nasty way of messing with people’s plans. If you lose your job or your hours get cut, you probably can’t take that vacation you’ve been counting on, or replace the old clunker you’ve been driving. But for some couples a bad economy is the perfect time for a little addition. Tamara Keith explains.
TAMARA KEITH: A recession is a time to hunker down, work harder than ever, and avoid extra expenses. Oh, like, say maternity clothes and diapers. Or is it?
ROSIE STEFFENS: I’m the baby.
SARA STEFFENS: You’re the baby? Oh, you want to put it on my tummy like it’s on the baby?
Sara Steffens is preparing her almost 3-year-old daughter Rosie for the arrival of a baby sister. She admits the timing of this pregnancy may seem a bit unconventional.
SARA STEFFENS: Nobody’s actually said this to me, but I’m sure there’s people I know who thought that this was some sort of a terrible accident or something.
Last July, Steffens, who lives in Oakland, Calif., lost her job. She was laid off by the newspaper where she had worked for nine years. A blow like that would cause a lot of people to put their family plans on hold. But Steffens and her husband came to a very different conclusion.
STEFFENS: I think we just decided, Well, it’s not going to be a great year for my career anyway. And we wanted the kids to be somewhat close in age and, you know, why not.
Steffens has spent her pregnancy doing contract work, which is a pretty standard path for people who have been laid off. The flexible work schedule made it easier for her to coordinate all the doctors appointments that come with pregnancy. And it gave Steffens time to think about what she wants to do next since returning to a career in journalism doesn’t seem like a particularly viable option.
ELLEN GALINSKY: I think it’s a very clever decision.
Ellen Galinsky is president of the Families and Work Institute.
GALINSKY: It gives you a break as long as you’ve got health insurance coverage, or unemployment, or some other source of income that you can depend on.
Galinsky isn’t surprised that some women are choosing to weather the recession with motherhood.
GALINSKY: This country is increasingly becoming family centric. There is much more of an emphasis on children and families and being with them and taking good care of them than there has been before.
At this point, there are no solid statistics to tell us how the recession is affecting the birth rate. Stephanie Ventura, a demographer with the national center for health statistics says, historically, in a serious economic downturn , births have fallen or flattened out. The latest data she has only go through last July, so it’s a little too soon to tell this time around.
STEPHANIE VENTURA: Because it’s kinda what you might call a lagging indicator, because it takes nine months.
Ultimately, Ventura says the data will reflect a lot of different personal choices — those who put off pregnancy and those who went ahead in spite of the recession.
VENTURA: There’s more than 4 million babies born every year so that’s a lot of decisions. And of course there are some non-decisions.
The decision to have a recession baby just became a reality for Sara Steffens. She welcomed little June Susan into the world 11 months to the day after she was laid off.
In Washington, I’m Tamara Keith for Marketplace.
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