The Real Reason Young People Don't Want Kids

April 7th 2015

With young people dealing with crippling student debt and lower salaries than their 1980s counterparts, it's unsurprising that many of them are thinking twice about entering the endlessly expensive money suck that is parenthood.

New findings from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey reveal that nearly half of women between ages 15-44 were childless in 2014, a 1.1 percent increase from 2012. This is consistent with recent National Center for Health Statistics data showing a six-year decline in U.S. birth rates. The report says America's fertility rates dropped to record lows in 2013 with women ages 15-44 only having 1.86 babies on average. In order to maintain a stable population, the average has to be at least 2.1 children.

Having children is arguably the biggest decision of a person's life, and many don't go through with it because of costs. Last month, New York Magazine interviewed 29-year-old Lauren Rankin about how her choice not to procreate tested her long-term relationship with a man interested in starting a family.

"I know the importance and the life-changing nature of having a child," Rankin told the publication. "I definitely think it would affect a lot of things. We have good jobs and make decent money … but we barely have enough living outside of New York City."

"Having a baby is a huge life change," Matt Becker, a financial planner with a specialty in helping new parents, told CNN last year. "You are going to have unexpected things come up. Having that extra savings can help a lot."

Parenthood is at least an 18-year financial commitment -- and these days, it goes well beyond into a child's young adulthood -- but the cost of parenthood on day one is horrifying enough. In 2013, The New York Times reported the average cost of vaginal birth was $18,329 and C-section birth was $27,866. A survey conducted by Childbirth Connection found insured folks pay roughly $3,400 in out-of-pocket birth costs with the rest covered by insurance companies.

Of course, birth is just the beginning. Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that it will take $245,000 to raise a middle class child born in 2013 to the age of 18.

Cost or raising a child


Childcare costs

For young people in expensive metropolitan areas, raising children presents unique financial stresses. Britta Gidican of Seattle, Wash., told CNN last year that she and her boyfriend drop $1,380 every month in childcare costs. That looks like a good chunk of money, but according to Baby Center, it's not drastically different than the national average cost of daycare, which is $972 per month and $11,666 every year. According to a 2013 Census report, childcare costs have nearly doubled since the mid-1980s.

Parental leave

America doesn't guarantee paid parental leave to all citizens, making parenthood even more expensive. In 2002, California became the first state to mandate paid family leave (Paid Family Leave (PFL), which provides income replacement to California residents looking after a new child. Earlier this year, President Obama signed a memorandum requiring that federal agencies provide workers with six weeks of paid leave to take care of new children or sick relatives. These things are great for Californians and federal employees, but guaranteed paid parental leave for all Americans would help with the overall cost of raising children.

Dozens of other countries provide paid leave for workers, putting the U.S. at the bottom of the list in government-supported time off, according to 2013 data compiled by the Pew Research Center:

Countries with supported time off

Pew Research Center

It's hard to feel inspired to start a family when looking at the breakdown above, especially if you're young and underemployed. Parenting costs alone have caused many young women to terminate their pregnancies. Last month, ATTN: reported that nearly 75 percent of females who have undergone abortions cite the financial burden of motherhood as the main reason for their decision. Even couples looking to marry and have children someday first have to get past the average wedding cost, which is more than $30,000, before they can think about becoming parents.

With the monetary stresses of unpaid leave, increasing daycare prices, long-term costs of offspring, lack of support from employers, and lingering student debt, parenthood is simply too expensive for young people to consider, at least until they can earn stable incomes.

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