To understand why fewer and fewer Americans are having children every year, the New York Times asked nearly 2,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 45 who have fewer kids than they want why that is. While the survey received a plethora of varied responses, such as “split from my partner” and “struggle with work-life balance,” the majority of people expressed a similar anxiety: raising children is incredibly expensive.
According to the report, the number of births for every 1,000 women of childbearing age was 60.2 in 2017, which is a record low. Of the responders who said they had or expected to have fewer children than they wished, 44 percent said they can’t afford to have more kids, and 64 percent said that the main reason they abstained was because child care is exorbitantly expensive. In Indiana, for example, the average annual cost of infant care is $8,918 — a sum that only 29.2 percent of families in the state can afford, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
One woman, 22-year-old Brittany Butler, told the Times that she plans not to have children for at least ten years because she wouldn’t want to raise them in her current neighborhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“A lot of people, especially communities of color, can’t really afford that now,” she said of raising children. “I’m just apprehensive about going back to poverty. I know how it goes, I know the effects of it, and I’m thinking, ‘Can I ever break this curse?’ I would just like to change the narrative around.”
Twenty-nine-year-old David Carlson, who lives in a dual-income household, also expressed economic anxiety over starting a family with his wife.
“Wages are not growing in proportion to the cost of living, and with student loans on top of that, it’s just really hard to get your financial footing — even if you’ve gone to college, work in a corporate job and have dual incomes,” he told the Times.
America, on the whole, does not have policies that support parents. It is the only developed nation in the world without a national paid family leave policy — something that the majority of U.S. citizens desire. Mothers in Finland, in comparison, get up to three years’ worth of paid leave. In Sweden, a country with a lower GDP than the U.S., parents are entitled to 480 days of paid leave.