This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Monday, February 8, 2016

Do Super Bowl Victories Really Cause Baby Booms?

If you watched yesterday's Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, you probably saw, as I did, a rather peculiar homage to the Super Bowl--a singalong of children who had reportedly been born nine months after a given city's Super Bowl victory. The video is titled "Data suggests 9 months after a Super Bowl victory, winning cities see a rise in births." Now, even if we quarrel with the fact that data is plural (datum is the singular--come on, you knew that), are there any data that actually support this claim? A lot of people asked this question online, as it turns out, and I think that one of the better responses was by Seth Millstein on Bustle.com, who couldn't find any actual evidence to support the specific claim about Super Bowl babies:
However, there is some limited evidence that sports victories can cause spikes in birth rates in the city or region whose team won the game. Multiple surveys conducted in Spain have suggested that birth rates in Catalonia shoot up nine months after local teams win big games, and there were anecdotal reports that Boston experienced a baby boom nine months after the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004. After New Zealand defeated France in the World Cup, multiple hospitals reported an increase in their birth rates nine months after the fact.
These reports are difficult to corroborate, though, simply because there are so many other confounding factors that could also cause an increase in births in a particular region. But it's still a cute commercial, and who knows? Maybe this will compel some researchers to finally roll up their sleeves and get to the bottom of whether Super Bowl babies are indeed a phenomenon.
Among the confounding factors is the fact that there has been an historical tendency for a rise in births in early autumn, following what appears to be a national pattern of baby-making in the winter months. You can look at the data at the CDC website. So, we would have to see if, in fact, Super Bowl winning cities had a statistically significantly higher number of births than other cities during that time of year. A complication, of course, is that most city or county level data are not collected nationally, so you would have to go state-by-state to work this out. Did anyone really do this prior to the Super Bowl? I doubt it. What I don't doubt, however, is the ability of the NFL to insert itself into the national consciousness in ways that divert our attention from the long-term injuries occurring to those players on the field...(full disclosure--the only injury I have ever experienced occurred playing high school football).

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