Childcare Costs Are Keeping the Birthrate Down

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Contrary to the popularly held belief that those who use food stamps and other such government subsidies have more children, the truth is actually that the only "subsidy" that increases the birth rate worldwide is childcare. Yes, that's right. In countries where childcare is less expensive, the fertility rates are higher.

All of this is according to a report released last Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Most of the time, reports like these kind of go in one ear and out the other for me, but in this case, it gave me pause. Currently, my husband and I are at a crossroads with childcare and with the decision to have a third baby. This past year was the first year where both children were in private preschool three days a week and it was $3,000 a month.

Now, granted, I live in a city where the cost of living is much higher than most of the country, but we live here because my husband's career is here and can only really be here, so moving isn't an option.

Next year, for the first time, one of our children is in the lottery to get into the local public preschool, which happens to be very highly regarded. It's a long shot -- the demand is much higher than the number of spots -- but it's possible, right? For the first time, we may be able to do some of the things financially we've been wanting to do, but a third baby? Seems crazy! Why would we possibly want to start this cycle all over again?

Now, granted, we had our children very close together, so the double tuition is really our own fault, but after the trauma of paying it, I'm not in any hurry to have to do it again. We may revisit the option once both of our children are happily in one of the incredibly good public schools in our area. But if they aren't, we may be paying private school tuition, which would basically render a third baby out of the question.

I'm not suggesting the state subsidize private school, but only pointing out that tuition costs, be they day care or private school, do affect the birth rate. For many moms and dads, one parent staying home with the kids is simply not an option financially or career-wise.

Long story short, I get it. If we want the birth rate to increase for educated, career-minded people who will raise educated and productive children, then we need to provide quality subsidized childcare for everyone. Choosing to have children you can't afford to educate exactly as they need is irresponsible and most wouldn't do so, which means that, sadly, they will only have the amount of children for whom they can afford to pay tuition.

Would better, cheaper childcare make you have more kids?


Image via {just jennifer}/Flickr

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