A New Look at the Family Structure
With their littlest feet and hands, babies make the biggest impact on our hearts by bringing warmth, happiness, and light into our lives.
In many cultures and countries, parenthood is the norm. Adults are expected to go to college, find a job, fall in love, get married, and of course, have kids. Anyone, especially women, who deviates from this standard is branded as “the crazy cat lady” or “incels” (involuntary celibates).
These traditional beliefs stem from the assumption that having a child or children makes your life complete.
However, today, more adults realise that this lifelong emotional and financial commitment isn’t what they want.
Researchers have observed an increase in childlessness among all racial groups and most education levels as early as 2010. Pew Research Center 2021 study revealed that 17% of non-parent adults aged 18–49 cite financial reasons as their reason for not having children in the future.
The Hidden Cost of Parenthood
We know that raising kids is expensive — but just how expensive is it?
Prior to a child being born, expected parents incur costly but necessary expenses for prenatal care, pregnancy and delivery.
According to the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the average cost of childbirth in the US is $18,865. While, health insurance can cover a significant portion of this cost, millions of American adults are uninsured and underinsured.
Moreover, adoption is also expensive. According to the American media company U.S. News & World Report, couples using private adoption can incur expenses ranging from $30,000 to $60,000 due to home study, legal fees, counseling, and social work expenses.
Cost of Raising a Child
But the costs don’t end here!
The largest portion of a child’s spending goes into housing, food, and childcare. As children grow older, parents need to budget to pay more for extracurricular activities, healthcare, or greater food prices for their developing adolescent. Depending on the area and household income level, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that parents will spend between $15,438 and $17,375 annually to raise a child in 2022.
As we have seen before, having a child is not for the faint of heart or wallet.
Thus, financially, not having kids is an obvious reason for many adults. The additional income saved from voluntary childlessness allows adults to reinvest this income in their careers, go on vacations and explore the world, or buy a house.
Childlessness: Economic Prosperity vs. Economic Decline
While being childless increases your individual disposable income, is the economy suffering as a consequence?
If fewer adults are having kids, the demand for child-centred products and services such as baby clothes and after-school activities decreases. As a result, the production of these goods and services will decrease, as it would no longer be profitable. Moreover, employees who would provide these resources would be fired to save costs.
Conversely, adults who do not spend their income on child-related expenses are able to save more and accumulate assets. Acquiring assets directly contributes to total output (Gross domestic products) and wealth creation. For instance, through savings and income, a childless 32-year-old adult might find it easier to build a home. Through investment in land, building materials, mortgages and homeowners tax, local shops, services and the government can profit from this asset.
It’s a Tie –
Therefore, in the debate about whether childless adults are improving the economy, it’s a tie. Economists and researchers have not been able to directly link childless adults to economic growth or decline.
It’s simply too complex.
Dr Geni Dechter, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics at UNSW Business School, says, “On one hand, [having more children] will increase demand for goods and services and may have a positive effect on recovery, but on the other hand, higher birth rates may have a negative effect on labor force participation, especially for women, and therefore have a negative effect on recovery.”
The only clear verdict in this argument is that the decision to have or not have a child is a personal matter that should only be made after considering the mental, emotional and financial effects.