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Cognitive Schemas and Fertility Motivations in the U. S. during the COVID-19 Pandemic

NCJ Number
Date Published
24 pages

This article discusses the authors’ research to determine why the U.S. experienced unexpectedly low birth levels during the Covid-19 pandemic, and suggests that future research should broaden the conceptual frameworks of fertility motivations beyond economic factors to include cognitive schema.


While current evidence indicates that the United States did not experience a baby boom during the Covid-19 pandemic, few empirical studies have considered the underlying rationale for the American baby bust. Relying on data collected during the pandemic, the authors found that pandemic-related subjective assessments (e.g., self-reported stress, fear of Covid-19 and relationship struggles) and not economic indicators (e.g., employment status, income level) were related to levels of fertility motivations among individuals in relationships. Analysis of within-person changes in fertility motivations showed that shifts in the number of children, increases in mental health issues, and increases in relationship uncertainty, rather than changes in economic circumstances, were associated with short-term assessments of the importance of avoiding a pregnancy. The authors argue for broadening conceptual frameworks of fertility motivations by moving beyond a focus on economic factors to include a cognitive schema that takes subjective concerns into account. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2022