Much was foretold about the problems that might have befallen us on the day of the Millennium (1st January, 2000). Little happened, of course, that was detected by the human eye. But it appears the statistics have uncovered a little something; perhaps a hint of optimism. Perhaps a way to remember the ages of your children. Perhaps a good time. Who can tell?
Andrew Leigh and I have made a habit this year of looking at Australian data on births and deaths by day. There is lots of interesting stuff and I am sure we will tell more about them in due course. Among the less interesting but quite fascinating facts uncovered was that — all other explanations of how many births and deaths there are on a day aside — the 1st January, 2000 was a bigger than usual day for both births and deaths. The deaths bump wasn’t statistically significant but the births one was. We estimated that births jumped by between 5 and 12 percent in the first week or so of the millennium as compared with the previous week.
Why might this have been so? Novelty value most likely. A fresh start for parents with some discretion over birth timing (through planned ceasrians or inducements). Or perhaps an easy way to remember ages. My son is turning 6 this year and all I have to remember is that it is 2006 to work that out.
Of course, curiousity can get the better of us. If we look 9 months ahead to September 2000, there was another bump in births; perhaps 3 to 4 percent. This was statistically significant too; enough to suggest that the 1st January was a bigger party night for some that year than it usually is.
Anyhow, you can read the paper in all its technical glory here. It is an empirical one; hence, the catchy (corny?) title, “The Millennium Bub.” (See my earlier post about catchy titles).