Why Aren’t People of Childbearing Age Having As Many Children As They Used To? We Asked Them – by C C Miller

Why Aren’t People of Childbearing Age Having As Many Children As They Used To? We Asked Them – by C C Miller

(Link): Why Aren’t People of Childbearing Age Having As Many Children As They Used To? We Asked Them – by C C Miller

Women have more options, for one. But a new poll also shows that financial insecurity is altering a generation’s choices.

Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year.

Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children. So we asked them.

Wanting more leisure time and personal freedom; not having a partner yet; not being able to afford child-care costs — these were the top reasons young adults gave for not wanting or not being sure they wanted children, according to a new survey conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times.

About a quarter of the respondents who had children or planned to said they had fewer or expected to have fewer than they wanted. The largest shares said they delayed or stopped having children because of concerns about having enough time or money.

The survey, one of the most comprehensive explorations of the reasons that adults are having fewer children, tells a story that is partly about greater gender equality. Women have more agency over their lives, and many feel that motherhood has become more of a choice.

But it’s also a story of economic insecurity. Young people have record student debt, many graduated in a recession and many can’t afford homes — all as parenthood has become more expensive. Women in particular payan earnings penalty for having children.

… At the same time, he [Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland] said, “There is no getting around the fact that the relationship between gender equality and fertility is very strong: There are no high-fertility countries that are gender equal.”

The vast majority of women in the United States still have children. But the most commonly used measure of fertility, the number of births for every 1,000 women of childbearing age, was 60.2 last year, a record low.

… One of the biggest factors was personal: having no desire for children and wanting more leisure time, a pattern that has also shown up in social science research. A quarter of poll respondents who didn’t plan to have children said one reason was they didn’t think they’d be good parents.

Jessica Boer, 26, has a long list of things she’d rather spend time doing than raising children: being with her family and her fiancé; traveling; focusing on her job as a nurse; getting a master’s degree; playing with her cats.

“My parents got married right out of high school and had me and they were miserable,” said Ms. Boer, who lives in Portage, Mich. “But now we know we have a choice.”

… Financial concerns also led people to have fewer children than what they considered to be ideal: 64 percent said it was because child care was too expensive, 43 percent said they waited too long because of financial instability and about 40 percent said it was because of a lack of paid family leave.

..Starting a family used to be what people did to embark on adulthood; now many say they want to wait. Last year, the only age group in which the fertility rate increased was women ages 40 to 44. Delaying marriage and birth is a big reason people say they had fewer children than their ideal number: Female fertility begins significantly decreasing at age 32.

 

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