Don't Have Kids If You Can't Afford to Take Care of Them

I've reproduced just twice. I'm ok with that.
Is limiting the number of children one has a symptom of “cultural decadence”? This week in The New York Times, Ross Douthat argues that it is the niceties of modern life that are contributing significantly to the declining birthrate in America.

Fertility plunged after the recession hit in 2008, and it has yet to recover. The Pew Research Center found that U.S. birthrates hit their lowest number ever in 2011, with 63 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. In 1990, it was 71 per 1,000.

It makes sense. A lot of people (myself included) worry that they won’t have the means to provide for another child. Kids are expensive, yo, what with their lessons and activities, clothes, health upkeep, and the endless supply of GoGurt they seem to consume -- and that’s before we even get into the emotional toll they take on our lives.


Think about it: In poor developing nations, people don’t worry so much about whether or not they’ll be able to afford private school or violin lessons or a bigger house to contain all that stuff that kids come with. That stuff doesn’t exist for them, so there’s no need to feel like a crappy parent for not providing it.

Another aspect that may be affecting the drop in kiddos being born is that a lot of modern moms work outside the home now. Daycare is expensive for one or two kids, can you imagine paying for it for four or six? Then there’s the time commitment … for better or worse, moms that work away from their children spend less time with them than those that work purely as domestic engineers. These parents may decide that their time is better spent nurturing a fewer number of children.

Megan McArdle points out in The Daily Beast that without growth, our economy is destined to become even more stagnant, especially as the population ages. She writes, “Without the growth around which all of our modern welfare states have been structured, the modern safety nets that governments have spent the last century establishing may not be politically or economically sustainable.”  

What are we women of childbearing age supposed to do? Take one (or two or three or four) for the team? I don’t think so, but I think it’s important to be aware of what this culture shift means for our individual families and our country as a whole.

The fact is that we’re not producing as many babies as we once did. Therefore those nonexistent babies will not grow up and join the workforce and pay the taxes necessary to fund Social Security and Medicare. Plan accordingly.

Do you think the declining birthrate is a result of cultural decadence, or something else?

Read More >