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There’s more to the baby bust than COVID-19

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Alexis Small prepares her newborn baby to visit family members on November 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Alexis Small prepares her newborn baby to visit family members on Nov. 26 in Los Angeles. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

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Think of a baby like the 10-year Treasury note. Or maybe an 18-year T-note? Stick with us here.

Having a child means investing in the future, feeling hopeful about at least the next year or so. When you consider the climate crisis, you also have to consider what things are going to look like over the next couple decades or more.

All that contributes to America’s record-low birthrates, says Notre Dame economics professor Kasey Buckles, but she’s not ready to call it a crisis yet.

“Where I think that it’s potentially a crisis, though, is if there are people who do want to be having children and feel like they can’t,” she said. “I really worry that that says something about the way we’ve structured our economy in our society.”

The causes and effects of a declining birthrate stretch much further than the pandemic. On today’s show, Buckles will help us put the birthrate in context and unpack the immigration, climate and economic implications. We’ll also talk about the politics around child care and family leave.

Later on, we’ll talk about vaccine revenue, big banks returning to work and an update on the mess at Basecamp. Plus, listeners weigh in on the death of the mall and the return of cruise ships. Finally, acting Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel answers the Make Me Smart Question.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week we’re explaining movie theaters, Mother’s Day and “Star Wars” (May the fourth be with you). And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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