The coronavirus 'baby boom' is only for the rich and famous. Most people are too terrified to think about having kids right now.
- At the start of the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March, people speculated that the health crisis would result in a baby boom due to stay-at-home orders across the United States.
- But the majority of coronavirus pregnancy announcements seem to be from celebrities like Lea Michele, Gigi Hadid, and Rooney Mara.
- Celebrities can afford private doctors, house calls, and nannies, and might view the extra time at home as an opportunity to start or add to a family, a celebrity publicist told Insider.
- Data suggests that everyday Americans, by contrast, have put off family planning due to pandemic-related financial and health concerns.
In late April, a friend texted our group chat about the news of Gigi Hadid's pregnancy. After musing about the model's bun in the oven, she volunteered her own family-planning strategy."I've returned to setting an alarm so I can be as precise as possible," she wrote, referring to her birth control pill regimen. "Might hop on board with that," another friend wrote in response.
These divergent approaches illustrate how different a person's life trajectory can be if money is involved. Celebrities, with their extravagant wealth and other associated resources, have the luxury of starting or expanding their families with few, if any, barriers. For everyone else, the prospect of a pandemic pregnancy is often met with anxiety over health, safety, and financial burdens.
At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, people mused about a pandemic baby boomAs the coronavirus outbreak tore through America in mid-March, winking theories about interminable periods spent indoors sprang up. Many mused that baby-making would increase because couples wouldn't have much to do besides fondle each other out of sheer boredom.
"There's so much video calling going on that the babies conceived during the coronavirus pandemic should be called 'Baby Zoomers,'" one Twitter user mused.
—Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) March 25, 2020
—Chad Mihaylov (@ChadMihaylov) May 18, 2020
—intrusive thot (@nnhvy) May 19, 2020
—Elsa (@fuckingelsa) May 16, 2020For the one percent, there has indeed been something of a baby boom. In recent weeks, celebrity pregnancy announcements have littered Instagram and the gossip-starved pages of tabloids.On April 25, news broke that Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger were expecting their first child together. On April 30, Hadid and her boyfriend, singer Zayn Malik, posted their pregnancy news; the same day, Ashlee Simpson shared that she was pregnant with her third child.
Days later, actress Lea Michele announced her pregnancy with an Instagram baby-bump photo, and on May 18, news broke that Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix were expecting a baby.
Long-term isolation can be the perfect situation for expectant celebrity parents
It's likely, of course, that some now-pregnant celebrities learned they were expecting before the pandemic.
But according to Chad Schubert, a Los Angeles-based publicist who's worked with celebrities including Kristin Cavallari, Nick Carter, and Brian McKnight, the extended period of down time might appeal to wealthy stars who want to start or grow their families.
"I mean, these are people that are constantly on the go. You know, if you have any downtime, it's maybe a week here or there," Schubert told Insider. "For home life [isolation orders are] really beneficial for a lot of talent because you get to be very human for a minute."Schubert also noted that isolation measures are helpful for celebrity parents who don't want their kids to be the focus of paparazzi. Now, they have an excuse to stay home as much as possible.
The rich and famous can afford doctor house calls, exclusive clinics, and nanniesUnlike the average American, celebrities can also bypass doctor's offices and crowded hospitals, springing for home visits or private clinics instead.
Schubert said there are plenty of Los Angeles-based doctors who can come to celebrities' homes for regular check-ins. And at a time when being around others can pose a serious health risk, the rich and famous can choose to visit semi-private health clinics.Indeed, celebrity hot-spots like New York, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley are home to concierge doctors that have services geared towards those who have money and don't want to wait for an appointment.
Dr. Jordan Shlain, a concierge doctor based in San Francisco, charges between $40,000 and $80,000 in yearly fees per family, the New York Times reported. (Run-of-the-mill concierge doctor fees are $1,500 to $2,400 each year, according to the Washington Post.) These services typically don't take insurance to cover payments.While the US healthcare industry continues to fail millions of Americans through astronomical costs and long wait times for doctors, people with enough money can bypass the chaos.They can also afford nannies and childcare services that help with the stress and time required to care for a child. The average nanny makes $18.66 an hour, or $38,00 annually, according to 2014 data, and live-in nannies tend to cost more, making them exorbitantly out of reach for most people.
For everyday Americans, the roadblocks to having children are numerous
Birth rates in the US have been steadily declining for years. According to a new CDC report, births in 2019 decreased by 1% when compared to 2018.According to experts, the record-low birth rate is an indicator of the current state of the world — and things are bleak.
"The birthrate is a barometer of despair," Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California, told NPR in 2019. "Not a whole lot of things are going good and that's haunting young people in particular, more than old people."
Worries of financial instability due to an unpredictable job market could be contributing to the trend, Penn State University sociologist Sarah Damaske told NPR. "When you think you might not be able to find steady work, it's harder to imagine how to form a family," she said.Crippling student debt, zero savings, healthcare costs, and a lack of affordable housing and childcare are also common barriers when it comes to starting a family. And with the US maternal mortality rate at 16.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, and even higher for women of color, the risk of childbirth today is ever-present.
Things have only been made harder by the pandemic
Unlike celebrities, there's little evidence — anecdotal or otherwise — that a big baby boom for everyday Americans is coming. While there could be a slight uptick, experts are doubtful that we'll see a major surge.Record-breaking rates of unemployment due to the pandemic are only solidifying feelings of financial insecurity for those who might otherwise want children. (Even the ability to hold off on having a child is a privilege: those who have limited or no access to birth control or abortion are often forced into these positions even if they can't afford or want them.)
In a survey of more than 1,000 women from personal finance company SoFi and reproductive health company Modern Fertility, one-third said the pandemic influenced their family-planning decisions. 61% said they were more anxious about their ability to support children at this time, with 41% specifically citing financial reasons.According to the USDA, its costs an average of $233,610 to raise one child, and that doesn't include the cost of higher education from a university, which is an extra $20,000 to $40,000 on average.Others are concerned about the health risks of a pregnancy in a pandemic world.
27% of respondents from the same survey said they're delaying their pregnancies because they're worried they'll get COVID-19, and 22% are worried their partner will get the disease. Meanwhile, nearly half of respondents said they're worried about access to prenatal care due to the coronavirus.
Haley Neidich, a 35-year-old therapist from Florida, told Insider that she put her pregnancy plans on hold due to her previous complicated pregnancy and need for careful and regular monitoring at doctor's offices. Neidich experienced a miscarriage in January while trying to conceive a second child. They decided they'd start trying again in March, but the pandemic curtailed that plan.She also said the prospect of caring for her two-year-old daughter while carrying a high-risk pregnancy would be too much to handle right now, especially without the help of nearby family and friends she'd normally lean on.
Pandemic pregnancies have underscored the privilege of wealth in a virus-plagued world
The uptick in celebrity pregnancies in the last two months has further illuminated how different life can be if you're well-off.
For celebrities, the ability to carry on with life, or add to it with a baby, remains largely intact. But for middle-class couples and families, the coronavirus pandemic has meant rethinking their futures, including who they bring into the world and whether it's safe to do so without a governmental or economic safety net.While these fears were present long before the coronavirus — debt, a broken healthcare system, and political and environmental turmoil will do that — the pandemic has only served to underscore the divide. Celebrities, it seems, aren't like us at all.
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