Claim: Nine months after the Great Blackout of 1965, the birth rate in New York City increased dramatically.
Origins: Despite initial reports of New York City hospitals’ seeing a dramatic increase in the number of births nine
months after the 1965 blackout, later analyses showed the birth rate during that period to be well within the norm.
A series of three articles appearing in The New York Times from
nine months earlier had led to an unusually high number of conceptions that evening. As often happens, however, people formed predetermined conclusions and then tried to fit the data to them. The birth rate nine months after the blackout did not show a statistically significant difference from the rate of birth recorded during the same period in any of the five previous years.
It is a common belief that the number of conceptions increases during natural disasters or crises that keep people confined within their homes for unexpectedly long periods of times. Nine months after such events — blackouts, blizzards, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, ice storms, and even strikes by professional football players — reports about “baby booms” in local hospitals invariably appear in the media. However, these “booms” typically prove to be nothing more than natural fluctuations in the birth rate (or, in many cases, no variation in the birth rate at all). We never hear about these fluctuations when they are not preceded by some unusual event; conversely, when such fluctuations do occur, people go scrambling to find some earlier event to attribute them to (even though evidence establishing any causal connection is lacking).
As J. Richard Udry stated at the conclusion of his article about the effect of the
| ||Births Up 9 Months After the Blackout (The New York Times, 10 August 1966)|
| ||Theories Abound on Birth Increase (The New York Times, 11 August 1966)|
| ||Hospitals Report Birth Rates Gradually Returning to Normal (The New York Times, 12 August 1966)|
| ||The Effect of the Great Blackout of 1965 on Births in New York City (Demography, August 1970)|
Last updated: 17 July 2007