Veteran reporters and lawmakers today are probably thinking back to the last government shutdown, in October 2013, maybe recalling the long hours, and the angry phone calls.
Many federal employees may remember that Ted Cruz-caused shutdown more fondly — nine months later D.C. enjoyed a baby boom.
The evidence isn't conclusive, but it's there: July 2014 saw more births in Washington, D.C. (875) than any July before or since. That year, July accounted for 9.2 percent of all births. In the four surrounding years, July accounted for an average of 8.5 percent of all births. Look at the chart below.
Now, a vast majority of babies born in the D.C. area were born outside of the District — mostly in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland, and Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, and Alexandria in Northern Virginia. We were unable to hunt down county-level month-by-month data, but we did call the single biggest hospital for births in suburban Maryland, Holy Cross in Silver Spring.
Holy Cross also saw a jump in babies in July 2014. The hospital delivered more babies that month than in any prior year and more than in the following year, 2015. (After 2015, the closure of other hospitals in the region have caused a massive influx of babies being born at Holy Cross, making a quick data comparison impossible.)
In early July 2014, Holy Cross nurses told the Washington Examiner that it was their busiest week ever. The Washington Post found anecdotal data as well.
So why would a shutdown cause a baby boom?
The answer could be as simple as increased free time. Non-essential federal workers get to stay home, but school is still open, so the kids are out of the house.
Conversely, maybe the stress of a shutdown can wreak upon workers struggling to keep federal offices open or wondering how much income a shutdown will cost them. Some people cope with stress with a quiet bubble bath. Others enjoy more collaborative means of stress relief — thus a baby boom nine months later.
At least one nurse pondered her hospital's spiking daily birth rate that month.
“We keep getting asked, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Sibley Memorial Hospital nurse Yulette Newman told the Washington Post. “And we sit back and say, ‘Well, you’re in D.C. What was happening nine months ago?’ ”
"It was definitely stressful not knowing when we would get paid, but I actually had a great time,” said Jessica Hernandez, whose daughter's conception aligned with shutdown-mandated time off work. “I got lunch with other feds, hung out with my mom, volunteered at my other daughter’s school, cleaned some closets and then just relaxed."
"Her relaxation contributed to her better mood, she recalled, and her better mood contributed to her choice of activities when her husband came home from his sales consulting job," The Post reported.
Will this year's shutdown last long enough for closets to get clean, and then the Beltway population to get a stimulus?