The birth rate in the United States as a whole has shown a decline over the past several decades. People are choosing to have fewer children, having children later in life, and more and more are deciding to remain childfree. There are many factors contributing to this trend, including access to reproductive health services (which have been limited to a small number of states since the fall of Roe) and increasing educational and career opportunities for women.
More and more Millennials say they choose not to have children because they cannot afford them. A Newsweek poll of 1,500 adults in April 2023 asked, “If the cost of living were lower, would you consider having children?” found that 30% of respondents overall answered yes. Among respondents aged 18-34, that figure jumped to more than 50%.
A number of Millennials have expressed their doubts about having children on TikTok, with some citing a US Department of Agriculture estimate that the cost of raising a child born in 2015 was $233,610 over the first 17 years.
In response, one 22-year-old TikTok user (who doesn’t have children) offered a rebuttal to the claims, explaining that, in his view, families who pay for childcare are choosing to “prioritize” their careers, over having one parent. stay at home to care for the children. If Millennials choose to prioritize having children, he quips, they can do it. He set an example for his own family. He stated his father chose to “increase” his salary to support his mother and the 11 children he was left to raise.
Her video, which she deleted and then republished, has gone viral and commentators have shown her no mercy in their criticism. But his overall statement – that parents could afford their children if they just tried harder – is not unusual.
However, it would be unfair to compare the financial situation of the Millennial generation with previous generations. While housing costs have risen drastically, wages have not risen in sync – and most of us don’t live in a fairy garden where we can water our paychecks and watch them grow.
“Most of us don’t live in a fairy tale garden where we can water our paychecks and watch them grow.”
In 2023, the median home purchase price in the US will be $412,000, or 5.5 times the 2022 median household income of $74,580. In 1980, the median price of a home was $47,200, which was only 2.2 times the 1980 median household income of $21,020. Millennials are not imagining things. Their salaries are not even half that.
Additionally, the soaring cost of higher education means many people are carrying huge student loan debt. Americans owe a total of $1.75 trillion in student loans, an average of $28,950 per borrower. This debt makes it difficult to save for a down payment on a house, or take unpaid time off work to care for a new child. (The US has long been a standout among developed nations in offering zero weeks of paid leave.)
Then there are the costs of child care itself. While it is true that some people, usually women, leave the workforce to care for children because the total cost of childcare is as large, or even greater, than their salary, there are also reasons why people stay in the workforce that go beyond the paycheck. . Some people work to maintain health insurance for their families. The consequences of leaving the workforce are not limited to the present: workers will lose seniority, retirement funds, and social security income when they take time off.
However, it is not unusual for parents’ salaries to suffer due to childcare costs. The Department of Health and Human Services sets 7% of family income as the benchmark for affordable child care. However, according to Care.com’s 2024 Cost of Care Report, families spend an average of 24% of their income on child care. Sixty percent of families spend 20% or more.
Here at Talk News, we’ve highlighted some of these families’ stories in our Banking On Childcare series. By sharing the costs of childcare and their struggles, these parents paint a picture of the complex, and sometimes heartbreaking, decisions families are forced to make in order to provide for their children.
Here are some things they said about their kids, their jobs and their priorities:
“I’m still paying student loans, and that’s $350 a month. My car payment is $400. We’re told, ‘Go to school, go to college, you’ll be fine.’ And I will pay my loans until I am 52 years old, I think that will work. So I didn’t give my kids a chance – I couldn’t save anything for them, to help them not be in this position. And that’s what really broke my heart. Plus, I feel like I missed their entire lives because I was too busy trying to survive and doing a million jobs.” — Ashley P., Pennsylvania (Read the full story: ‘When You Subtract the Amount I Pay for Child Care, I Only Make $10 an Hour’)
“To go from two decent revenues to cutting our revenues in half was difficult. We try to justify it mentally with, ‘Oh, but look how much we save on daycare’ and so on, but in the end, you still lose out.” — Rachael Gomez, Texas (Read the story: My Family of Five Lives On $90,000 A Year And ‘It’s A Struggle’)Sherrie Bain and her son.
“I literally work seven days a week. I took on extra work at school, I would do aromatherapy (sales), anything I could find to supplement my main income. Anything I can do online, I will do, so I have an income but don’t have to worry about paying extra childcare costs.” — Sherrie Bain, California (Read the story: I’m a Single Mom With a Ph.D., And ‘I Literally Work Seven Days a Week’ To Make Ends)
“When you plan to have children, you realize the need to set up a college fund, like everyone talks about. You need to plan for college when you have kids, but you have 18 years to generate those funds. No one ever warned you about the costs of early childhood care. And if you’re lucky, you’ve got three months to plan it, maybe nine months if you’re really up to it. No one talks about it, but your hands are tied. You will quit your job, or you will have to pay.” — Deanna Conley, Rhode Island (Read the story: ‘Everyone Talks About This Village, But There Is No Village’: The Reality of Child Care)
“I need these (subsidized child care) funds to always be there so I can work and develop for my family and myself. This is what will really help me and other families: Funds are always there, it doesn’t make it difficult for us to submit applications so we can develop, so we can win. Because for a lot of women, a lot of single mothers, it’s very difficult to get ahead.” — Luz Quevedo, Oregon (Read the story: How I Made State Funded Child Care Work As a Single Mom)
“I definitely want (my 3-year-old) to work full time next year, but I don’t know how feasible that is. If I get a full-time job and put him in full-time kindergarten, then we probably won’t qualify (for subsidized care) so I’ll just be paying for child care. That doesn’t make sense. Honestly, I don’t even think we’ll break even.” — Michelle Dewalt, Washington (Read the story: I Worked as a Part-Time Babysitter So I Could Take Care of My Own Children)Ida Rodriguez of Massachusetts and her daughter
“There has to be a certain level of understanding. We can’t expect people to work this long, but at the same time, be inflexible. I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve had that thought, ‘Your child is sick? Well, why don’t you just give your kid a Tylenol and stay in.’” — Ida Rodriguez, Massachusetts (Read the story: What I Spend on Child Care As a Mom Making Under $30,000 a Year)
″We are at a crossroads where one of us may have to leave our jobs because of the current situation and how unaffordable it is. So we think about, do we choose to lose health insurance? Or do we lose most of our revenue?” — Lucie Benevise, Virginia (Read the story: I Make $22 An Hour In Roanoke, Virginia. Here’s What I Spend On Child Care)