The New Baby Bust

Is there a stimulus package that can save our sex lives? An exclusive Daily Beast Valentine’s poll reveals that in the chilly climate of recessionary America, sexual activity is down, people are postponing having kids—and the size of your bank account matters in the bedroom.

In recent months, Americans have watched nearly every economic indicator plunge, from GDP to consumer confidence. But in the aftermath of the economic collapse, another alarming slide is taking place.

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Americans’ romantic lives are undergoing a meltdown of their own, according to a new Daily Beast poll conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland. They’re less likely to go on dates (35 percent), and plan to spend less on dates when they bother (39 percent). About one quarter of Americans (28 percent) are more likely to argue with their partners. The most popular gift for Valentine’s Day? The proverbial dinner for two—but probably cooked at home—followed by an affordable…card. Twelve percent of Americans aren’t planning on buying any gift at all for their partner this year.

Beyond February 14, the collapse is shelving more complex plans. Nearly half of all Americans surveyed (42 percent) are now less likely to have children, and many are postponing other major life events. Americans are now less likely to get married (31 percent), move in with a partner (26 percent), or go through with a divorce (35 percent). Add maternity wards, wedding registries, chapels, and divorce courts to the list of institutions likely to suffer in the coming years.

And although nearly half of Americans believe that sex helps them take their mind off of their problems, the economic crisis has not piqued much interest in one of the world’s least-expensive activities. Only 13 percent of those surveyed say they will have sex more often this year compared to last, one in two are planning to be more cautious about who they sleep with, and 20 percent are consciously upping their safe-sex practices to avoid having children.

Where will it all end? Look for the answer somewhere around $75,000. Americans believe people with more money have more sex in general, more partners, and more affairs. And rich people agree, reporting a more-active sex life, plans for more sex in 2009, and less long-term concern about their relationships and the economy. But for people making less than $75,000, things look bleak: They are more pessimistic about the future, more likely to feel a negative impact on their relationships, and more likely to argue about both money and sex. Not surprisingly, that translates pretty directly to the bedroom: Americans who make less than $75,000 plan to have less sex—and even look at less sexual material—in 2009.

Overall, Americans are still optimistic about the future, still believe in romance and marriage, and by and large refuse to judge a partner by his or her wallet. But there are signs that the credit freeze is becoming the sex freeze, and the lack of liquidity may turn into a lack of babies before the crunch has come to a close.