There is a story out there that suggests when a blizzard comes along, like the one that hit Chicago this past week, one can expect a rise in births in nine months. Experts say this story has little foundation in fact:
The commonly held assumption dates at least to the widespread blackout of 1965 that doused New York City in darkness. About nine months after residents spent hours together with the lights off, The New York Times reported an uptick in births. A sociologist quoted at the time offered this euphemistic explanation:
“The lights went out and people were left to interact with each other,” he said.
Over the years, blackouts, snowstorms, and even full moons have all been deemed natural aphrodisiacs. But for nearly as long, experts have sought to debunk the relationship between catastrophe and copulation, dubbing it mere myth.
“It is evidently pleasing to many people to fantasy that when people are trapped by some immobilizing event which deprives them of their usual activities, most will turn to copulation,” demographer J. Richard Udry wrote in a 1970 paper that showed there was no statistically significant increase in births that could be attributed to the 1965 blackout.
Tom Smith, director of the Center for the Study of Politics at the University of Chicago, agreed that most baby boom speculation following various disruptions has not proved true.
“First, these events are as likely to separate partners as they are to isolate them together with ‘nothing better to do.’ Second, most people are using contraceptives,” Smith said. “(And) third, these are hardly the type of events that make couples say, ‘Let’s start a family.'”
So why exactly does this myth still make the rounds? This one is fairly easy to disprove: just look at the records for birth nine months after any event.