Thursday, September 3, 2015

Birth rates in N.J. shore towns jump nine months after Hurricane Sandy, study finds

Sand fills the streets in the wake of superstorm Sandy, along the central Jersey Shore, N.J. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Sand fills the streets in the wake of superstorm Sandy, along the central Jersey Shore, N.J. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

How would one describe New Jersey shore residents' sex lives?

Stronger than the storm.

An analysis by the Asbury Park Press found that births at shore-area hospitals this month — nine months after Hurricane Sandy struck the coast — showed a significant increase year over year that doesn't surprise some experts in post-storm fertility. (Yes, there are professionals that study that.)

Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J., has experienced a 35-percent jump in births this month compared to July 2012 and nearby Jersey Shore and Ocean medical centers have seen 20-percent increases, the APP found.

An economics professor at Brigham Young University, Richard W. Evans, who has studied the effects of big storms on fertility told the newspaper he isn't surprised at the finding and even noted that the post-Sandy birth rate may be even higher than other storms he has studied.

"If your lights go out and your electricity goes out but you can stay in your house, fertility increases," Evans said, but he added that it doesn't apply as easily to those displaced by devastating storms: "If you are running for your life or being evacuated or flooded out, you are not making babies."

A 2010 paper he co-authored with three other professors titled "The Fertility Effect of Catastrophe: U.S. Hurricane Births" found just that: For those who received low-level warnings of the threat of an impending storm, fertility increases. But those who were told to leave their homes because of deadly threats coming, the opposite effect on fertility occurs.

"For every 24 hours of extra tropical storm or hurricane watch, you had a 2 percent increase in births nine months later," Evans and his colleagues found.

As the APP's analysis found, the jump in New Jersey residents' fertility rate is proving much stronger than that.

Contact Brian X. McCrone at 215-854-2267 or Follow @brianxmccrone on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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