Baby busting myths about shortages

A short note on delivery dates of both kinds.

The baby product market was facing frustrating shortages in early 2021. Pregnant women were frantically pestering customer support, since mothers couldn’t push one delivery date to match another. Ho hum, you say, join the pandemic shortage club! But there’s more to this story than supply chains or stockpiling. A popular baby registry site, Babylist, reported the some of the items flying out the door were branded strollers, bassinets, and diaper changing pads.[1] Were people stockpiling cribs and strollers? Clearly not!

Although supply chain disruptions did stall this market, there are always two sides to a market: supply AND demand. At the onset of COVID, we saw a sharp baby “bust,” where uncertainty and anxiety about the future led to a drop in pregnancies. However, as the pandemic wore on, a baby “bump” appeared- one of the few upticks in a decade-long downward trend in the U.S. birthrate. Why?

Well, yes, everyone had a lot of time at home. However, late pandemic births were not equally spread among women, but concentrated in college-educated women. These women were likely more financially secure during the pandemic and enjoying more flexible remote work, both increasing the ease of having a family. Importantly, these births were more likely to be to first-time moms.[2] More first births means increased demand for all the baby equipment– all those things you later realize were just as interesting to your baby as a cardboard box!

Or as second-time parents call this: “portable crib!”

Could this mini baby “boom” offer us a path to reversing the long-term decline in U.S. birthrates? Although the latest birth data shows the boom may have receded, remote work is similarly receding from the workplace. Would more flexibility and ability to work from home nurture both business growth and toddlers? Could be a baby step! [3]

[1] Ember, Sydney, and Sapna Maheshwari. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Supply Chain Issues.” The New York Times , 29 Dec. 2021, Accessed 22 October 2023.

[2] You can read the original research paper here, or a nice summary of the issue in this posting.

[3] I know. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help myself!