Fewer people are having kids, and those who do are paying a higher price
- Fewer people are having kids, and those who do are paying a higher price
1. “I will cost you your dream house.”
Couples thinking about starting a family might want to boost their saving goals. The cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 is higher than the price of the average American home: Middle-income parents spend over $241,000 to raise a child, according to a study released last month by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. The median price of a home, in contrast, currently stands at $203,500. And statistics show that, unsurprisingly, the more a family earns, the more they spend on their kids.
There are some economies of scale. The cost per child decreases as the number of children increases—even though the overall cost continues to climb. Families with three or more children spend 22% less per child than those with only two children, as the kids get hand-me-down clothing and toys, help baby-sit, and share bedrooms.
Plus, food can be bought in bulk and some child care services offer discounts for more than one child, says Mark Lino, a research economist with the Department of Agriculture. “But you’re better off economically if you have an only child, as most parents only have a set amount of income,” Lino says.hose who do are paying a higher price
2. “My delivery is going to cost you big.”
The U.S. is possibly the most expensive place in the world to give birth to a baby, especially for those who foot the bill themselves. Employer-provided health insurance paid around $32,000 for delivery and $50,000 for a cesarean-section, a 2013 report by health-care services company Truven Health Analytics found, with patients paying about 12% of that in out-of-pocket costs.
Many American parents must add lost earnings on top of that: The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn’t require paid family leave for new parents, so mothers and fathers could lose several months wages while they’re taking care of their new baby.
What’s more, “high skill” women—those who scored in the top third of the Armed Forces Qualification Test, a common proxy for intelligence that includes questions on vocabulary and arithmetic—get paid nearly one-quarter less than their child-free counterparts 10 years after having children, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. government’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which followed nearly 13,000 people from 1979 to 2006.
The analysis—published in 2010 by researchers from Harvard University, Columbia University and New York University—found “little evidence of strong effects of parenthood on male pay,” however.
Currently, 20% of women in the U.S. are uninsured, a 2012 Commonwealth Fund study found. And while federal law requires companies with 15 or more employees who offer health insurance to include maternity coverage for employees and spouses, 62% of women who purchase their own insurance have a plan without maternity coverage, according to 2011 government data.
That soon may change: The Affordable Care Act is expected to give 30 million more Americans access to health insurance by 2014 and it requires the insurance policies offered in the state marketplaces to cover maternity care as one of the “essential health benefits.” Still, in many countries around the world, it’s already free to have a child, says Linda Murray, global editor in chief at BabyCenter, a pregnancy and parenting website.
3. “I’ll break your heart.”
People who have kids experience more depression than child-free adults, according to a 2005 report by researchers at Vanderbilt University and Florida State University. Using data collected by the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households, the study concluded that parenthood isn’t associated with enhanced mental health.
In fact, the happiest people are likely to be married, earn between $50,000 and $70,000 and have no kids, according to a separate analysis of decades of economic and psychological research by Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University. “When it comes to parenting and mental health,” says Isabel Sawhill, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. “It’s a bit of a mixed picture.”
Why the glum faces? Financial pressures aside, parents spend years worrying about their children, and often find it difficult to juggle families with careers and relationships, says Sawhill. And a 2011 academic paper by researchers at Arizona State University and Santa Clara University challenges the “conventional view” that parenthood reduces happiness, arguing that parents became happier over time relative to non-parents.
Also on the bright side for parents, at least one study concludes that having a child cuts the risk of early death. In a 2012 study of over 21,000 childless Danish couples, women without children had a fourfold higher rate of premature death, and childless men had a twofold higher rate. The researchers noted that although statistical correlation isn’t causation, the results suggest that people without kids have higher early mortality rates.
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6. “I know you love my sibling more than you love me.”
Few parents would admit it to their own children, but yes, many do favor one of their kids over the others. In a survey of over 2,200 parents in the United Kingdom, conducted earlier this year, 34% of mothers and 28% of fathers admitted to having a favorite child.
7. “I broke your iPad, iPhone and computer too.”
Sticks and stones will do it—as will a pair of chocolate-covered hands. Over 50% of consumers say their kids have damaged a cellphone, laptop or tablet, according to a recent survey by gadget insurer SquareTrade.
Mom and Dad often hand over their gadgets to their kids when they’re driving “or trying to get through a meal without a fight,” says Steve Abernethy, CEO of SquareTrade, a company that has a vested interest in butter fingers. “When the iPod turned from a music device to a games device and parents started lending them to their kids, claims went through the roof.”
While many children may have no option but to confess to their klutziness, nearly one-third of them try to blame someone else for the accident or deny all knowledge of it, SquareTrade’s survey found.
Still, some would argue that the responsibility ultimately lies with the parents. “Remind your kids not to eat and drink while using devices,” Abernethy says, “and make sure they don’t overpack their backpack and crush their tablet.”
9.“I’m probably not giving you any grandchildren.”
Today’s children are far less likely to have children when they grow up than adults of previous generations, based on current trends, studies show. Around one in five American women never have children, compared with one in 10 women 40 years ago, according to a 2010 Pew Research analysis of U.S. Census data. The percentage of child-free adults rose over those four decades for all racial and ethnic groups and most education levels, it found. And while roughly half of those without children cannot have them, Sawhill says, the rest chose to remain child-free. Similarly, one in five men ages 40 to 44 years have no children, a separate 2011 Pew Research study found; among males aged 15 to 44 years, the childless rate rises to 53%.
This trend may be worrying for some Americans, says Sawhill. Some people may wonder, “‘Who’s going to look after the boomers? Who’s going to fight our wars?” she says. But the main reason parents hope their kids will have children, she says, is that they look forward to the day that they will be grandparents. “Grandparents get all of the benefits with none of the costs.”
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(Link): The Child Free City