Birth Control
October 17, 2014 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Will having kids soon be out of reach economically for many American families? 'Parenthood should be affordable in this country, but the cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood is now a quarter of a million dollars and projected to double by the time today's toddlers reach their teens.' 'For evidence to suggest that middle-class parents might already be getting priced out of parenthood, look to the national birthrate. It fell sharply in the recession but, unlike in previous economic rebounds, has continued to drop. This makes sense in financial context, given that most families haven't seen their incomes grow since the recovery began and the median net worth of households has actually fallen below what it was 15 years ago. Most families today don't have enough saved to meet basic needs for three months, let alone save for college or retirement.'

'In terms of their kids' health, families increasingly have to choose between treating their children's medical needs and paying household bills. Despite gains in the percentage of children with health insurance, per capita medical spending on kids has quietly ballooned faster than for any other age group, with families paying more for premiums and steeper out-of-pocket expenses.'

'Higher-income families spend six times more than working-class families on child care and educational resources, such as high-quality day care, summer camps, computers and private schools, which are increasingly indispensable investments in long-term success. This spending inequity has tripled over the last four decades and is only accelerating, which is likely to widen the achievement gap, creating a vicious cycle.'
posted by VikingSword (121 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Two friends just had a baby. They did the math before getting pregnant and realized that childcare would cost about $200 less per month than the mother's entire monthly salary, so she is quitting her job. If the dad didn't have a relatively well-paying (union) teacher job, having a child would have been completely impossible for these awesome people who really wanted to be parents.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


After reading these kinds of articles and having a kid, I realized that these articles are crazy. We spend almost nothing extra to maintain an extra mouth. But then again I live in Soviet Canuckistan, and the govt pays us for having kids.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:00 AM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


One cause that I don't think gets enough attention is that extended family help is really important to having kids in your 20s.

If you're 25 and your parents are nearby and semi-retired, having kids is a no-brainer -- you get free babysitting, some financial help, lots of advice, etc.

But if your parents are still under severe financial stress and are forced to be working full-time until much later in life, and you had to move to a different place for a job or for school, then you're on your own and have to build up an stable foundation before having kids.

At least that's what I'm seeing from my own circle of acquaintances. Helpful extended family nearby = you probably have kids early. No extended family help = you're in your 30s at least before you can have kids.
posted by miyabo at 11:03 AM on October 17, 2014 [41 favorites]


Also, Bryan Caplan wrote a contrarian book called "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" which basically argues that having kids isn't that expensive. I didn't care for the book much but it's worth putting out there.
posted by miyabo at 11:08 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


We spend almost nothing extra to maintain an extra mouth. But then again I live in Soviet Canuckistan, and the govt pays us for having kids.

Actually, it's more like your kids are paying for you to have kids.

American kids are paying for us to go to war.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:10 AM on October 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


I think this is one of those things that, despite there being a cost involved, still has a lot more to do with one's priorities than economic status/class in particular.

Most people I know "back home" in the south have had kids regardless of money/class issues. And they have a lot of them, too!

Like, I make a decent living, have made a decent living for my entire adult life, have dated people who also do pretty well, and yet I have not had children because OMG KIDS EXPENSIVE WHAT WOULD I EVEN DOOOOO

Meanwhile my general age cohort back home are all on their third kid and don't seem to be worried about money at all. And AFAIK this is not because everyone I grew up with back in Louisiana are all zillionaires. It's just a different approach/set of priorities.

Many to most of the people I'm referring to do have some kind of extended family help, though. OTOH I know plenty of people who waited to have kids who have the same level of family help.

For my cohort, it seems to have more to do with small-c conservatism or traditionalism than anything else. All the people who wanted to be artists or ad execs or software developers are waiting to have kids, while the women in traditional marriages with a breadwinning husband have left the workforce or sidelined their careers to raise multiple children in the traditional nuclear family arrangement.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also, Bryan Caplan wrote a contrarian book called "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" which basically argues that having kids isn't that expensive. I didn't care for the book much but it's worth putting out there.

Actually, I would argue that having any kids would be pretty selfish, considering the devastating impacts global warming is projected to have by the time they're middle aged or nearing retirement.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 11:13 AM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


People are still having sex.
posted by maryr at 11:21 AM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Most families today don't have enough saved to meet basic needs for three months, let alone save for college or retirement.

Save for retirement? I'm having kids for retirement.
posted by resurrexit at 11:22 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you didn't know any better, you'd think the vanishing options for middle class people were the result of snowballing income inequality.

Pull harder on those bootstraps, America!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:23 AM on October 17, 2014 [38 favorites]


Housing &Transportation $107,970
Child care and Education $44,400 = $2,466 /yr
Food $39,060 = $180 /mo
Clothing & Misc $33,780 = $156 /mo
Health care $20,130 = $93 /mo

I've broken down the numbers from that $245,340 estimate even further. Personally, I can't understand the numbers under Housing & Transportation. Your costs on those are going to be higher to some extent if you buy a bigger/safer vehicle because you have children and/or rent/buy a larger space then you otherwise would have - but that much higher?

On the other hand, I think the childcare and clothing/misc categories are pretty modest estimates. My daughter just turned 4 and I've already spent $25,920 on daycare for her...
posted by kitcat at 11:24 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I imagine that if your basic financial life trajectory is "broke and working a shitty, precarious job", then adding a couple of kids and just getting broker and more precarious doesn't seem that bad on the face of it, plus then [assuming you want kids] you have kids. If your life trajectory is more "live in an okay place, have some disposable income and savings and don't have kids" versus "fall into precarity and have kids", that creates some really different feelings.

My really broke friends with kids would not have that much more money or free time if they didn't have kids, although they'd be under less stress.
posted by Frowner at 11:25 AM on October 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Disclaimer: the perspective I am about to speak from is solely the one that triggered this one particular demographic thought-experiment. I state that because I'm just afraid it's going to start out with me sounding incredibly selfish.

So.

I'm a single middle-aged Gen-X woman, never married, no kids, and if my research into Web-MD is accurate, is entering the runup to menopause and is thus not going to be having kids in the future. So the articles about having/not having kids haven't really impacted me, I thought.

And then I started wondering - exactly what is this downswing in the birthrate going to do to Social Security 20-something years from now when I retire?

Social Security was always the big bugaboo when I was in my own 20's, but back then it was all because "oh noes the Baby Boomers a generation ahead of me will have used the whole thing up and there won't be any money left in the coffer", but that seems to be getting downplayed as of late because "oh hey wait there are now a lot of Millennials who'll still be paying into it I think we'll be okay". (Sorry, Millenials.) But now it also looks like THEIR kids won't be paying into it in as great a number either.

At least, not everywhere. What Sara C. says about people in some demographic categories tending to have more kids has me wondering if 20 years or so from now, we're going to have a national debate about how not just some economic classes bear a greater part of the SS burden, but whether some regions will bear a greater part of that burden. And if that debate starts up, how would that affect the national debate in general?

Again, just a thought experiment. I may be totally deluded about how the whole thing works anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:27 AM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


My partner and I have decided that it's a terrible idea to have a child under capitalism. Firstly, because it would give capital another set of hands to play with, secondly, because obligation to a child would good and well trap us in the workforce forever.

tl;dr: these proles are on strike.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:41 AM on October 17, 2014 [39 favorites]


Perhaps the number one thing that would help both families and children is subsidized childcare. In Sweden, all parents get childcare from birth for no more than 3% of income and capped at a maximum of $200 a month for the highest income earners. Someone making $25,000 a year would pay only $60 a month or two dollars a day.
posted by JackFlash at 11:44 AM on October 17, 2014 [27 favorites]


'Higher-income families spend six times more than working-class families on child care and educational resources, such as high-quality day care, summer camps, computers and private schools, which are increasingly indispensable investments in long-term success.

This doesn't mean that they can't afford to have kids. These "investments" are not "indispensable." Make choices based on what you can afford, sheesh. I am all for giving your kids resources and enrichment and educational experiences, but this idea that it's mandatory to keep up with the Jones's or your upper-middle-class child will FAIL IN LIFE is poisonous.
posted by desuetude at 11:44 AM on October 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


And then I started wondering - exactly what is this downswing in the birthrate going to do to Social Security 20-something years from now when I retire?

Of course, one could just allow in a bunch more legal immigrants, who are very often in their prime working years and can contribute generously to social security. But then immigrants, etc. Luckily the methane flumes will probably have done for humanity by the time I'm old enough to retire, so there's always that.
posted by Frowner at 11:46 AM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Here in Baltimore county, the average private school is $30000/year/kid. I don't know what we'll do once our kids outgrow the "blue ribbon" public elementary school they now attend - the middle and high schools for our same home address are zoned differently. I'm a big fan of public education, but the public schools here are not all uniformly great. These are the kinds of decisions my wife and I are faced with.
posted by newdaddy at 11:47 AM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's a significant part of why me and my fiancee probably won't have kids, yeah.
posted by klangklangston at 11:54 AM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Of course, one could just allow in a bunch more legal immigrants, who are very often in their prime working years and can contribute generously to social security.

The ones that work on the books, perhaps.

Of course, this runs into the other problem, that increasing the labor supply pushes down wages.

That and the fact that you're just adding another layer to the overall pyramid scheme.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:54 AM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


My wife and I are both in our 40's now, and childless. I'm torn because I know we'd make good parents, but I'm terrified at the expense. But our time to conceive is running out, and that's also a terrifying concept. We also have no local support system; our relatives are far away.

I wish we knew what to do. I'm afraid that we'll end up childless. I wouldn't be sad to be living for ourselves for the rest of our lives, with no one to worry about besides ourselves, but the thought of never experiencing parenthood does make me melancholy.
posted by starscream at 11:54 AM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


In Juneau, AK, we are having a daycare crisis. Even if your salary gives you enough money to come up with the substantial amount of cash needed for daycare, you can't find it. If you have a baby, forget about it. You either live your life outside of the normal economy or have relatives to take your kid.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:55 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is being framed incorrectly. Having kids is not going to become out of reach. Rather, retirement is, as people accumulate huge amounts of debt and pay off mortgages later and later. This is what I find most worrying.
posted by kitcat at 11:55 AM on October 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think pretty much every article about the cost of children finds out what people are spending and assume that is the "cost." But families with money routinely spend more than they need to--clothes from Gymboree when Target clothes are fine, and there is a ton of kids' clothes on Craigslist for cheap; $300 car seats when $70 seats are just as safe; a house with a bedroom for each kid plus a playroom when it won't hurt kids to share. Lots of happy families in 1950 had four kids in a 1500 square foot house. Childcare, health, and food costs are real issues, but in other area we should not assume that what people do spend is the same as what you must spend.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:55 AM on October 17, 2014 [26 favorites]


I have several friends who are paying more for childcare than I pay to own, maintain, and operate a nice airplane. I know that many people would rather have kids than enjoy the ability to fly, but I do find it hard to understand.
posted by exogenous at 11:57 AM on October 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


Mothers are actually paid to have kids AND paid again to stay home with them.

What, have you been frozen in a vault since the Reagan era? You are not aware of "welfare reform" in the 1990s?
posted by JackFlash at 11:57 AM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


They did the math before getting pregnant and realized that childcare would cost about $200 less per month than the mother's entire monthly salary, so she is quitting her job. If the dad didn't have a relatively well-paying (union) teacher job, having a child would have been completely impossible for these awesome people who really wanted to be parents.

Without judging your friends who made the right decision for themselves after thinking about it, this is often a question of short term vs long-term thinking. If you leave the workforce for a couple of years, you have the problem of not being guaranteed to find a job at all when you return and, if you do, having lost out on a few years of salary increases. So often -- again, not always, and I am not talking about your friends in particular -- saying now "well, I'd spend as much in childcare as I'd earn" doesn't consider what happens in a few years when your income is now lower than it would have been or you are unable to find a job -- it's a huge hit to lifetime earning potential.

(Part of this is because you can't take off a reasonable amount of time for parental leave and then just go back to your job.)
posted by jeather at 11:59 AM on October 17, 2014 [26 favorites]


I recall reading somewhere that fertility is actually higher in the Scandinavian countries than most other parts of Europe (and some parts of North America). The reasons were: free, subsidized childcare, generous parental leave, and the fact that fathers were expected to play equal roles in parenting.

OTOH, in countries where women couldn't easily combine career and children, fathers didn't participate so much in family life, and there was no free/low cost childcare, fertility rates plummeted and are still very low.

Well-educated women with career potential are waiting to marry and have kids until their 30's, as much because they want to get their careers off the ground and be sure they find a suitable partner than anything. This seems to be more and more the case in most of Europe as well. I think this is a good thing, because people who wait to get married are more likely to have marriages that last, and less likely to be resentful of their kids for "tying them down" and "keeping them from having fun."

And, again for the well-educated and affluent, or even the middle class, grandmothers are much, MUCH more likely to still be in the workforce. Either Grandma has a capital-C Career that she loves and doesn't want to give up, or she's the main or sole breadwinner for her family. Having Grandma as childcare provider is easy when Grandma is a housewife or can take early retirement from her pink-collar job. Not to mention it's easier when Grandma lives nearby and not across the country.

Just anecdotally, childcare is THE biggest expense/stumbling block among people I know; and having a special-needs child, which so many people do, adds another layer of expense and need for hands-on specialized care.

While I don't think we will ever go back to large (more than 3 kids) families except among the ultra-religious, I think that free or low-cost, universal child care would go a long way towards people feeling OK to have children, or one more child than they have.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:02 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mothers are actually paid to have kids AND paid again to stay home with them

I hear this sort of rhetoric quite a bit. It's a common talking point of the right (including some friends of mine) when discussing slashing benefits to the poor.

So, is the 'solution' to this to remove benefits for poor children? To take away food stamps for the kids? Ensure the mothers can't afford to clothe them? Do you think poor mothers have a higher standard of living after having children while on public welfare? Do you think poor people will stop having children if we, as a society, refuse to give public assistance to poor mothers, or do you think that the children will just grow up in worse conditions?

States that have some of the worst assistance for poor mothers are often the same states that have higher amounts of children being born to poverty (it makes more sense when you look at these states abstinence only 'sex education').

In summary, I think we should be looking to Sweden as a model, not Somalia.
posted by el io at 12:02 PM on October 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


What is driving the cost of childcare up? 'Cause it's sure not the salaries of childcare workers.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:03 PM on October 17, 2014 [26 favorites]


JackFlash: "What, have you been frozen in a vault since the Reagan era? You are not aware of "welfare reform" in the 1990s?"

What, you are not aware that there is life outside of the U.S. of A?
posted by travelwithcats at 12:04 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


If it actually cost that much, the bankruptcy section of the paper would be much thicker.
posted by michaelh at 12:10 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another issue in the UK is that family housing is hellishly expensive for couples, especially those who work in London or the environs. Twenty years ago, I could afford to buy somewhere as a one-income household big enough for me and my offspring; the direct equivalent of that me today can't afford to buy anywhere big enough just for themselves as a two-income household. My wages doubled in twenty years: my flat tripled.

But mostly, it's not about numbers, it's about insecurity. It's about not trusting that you'll have your job in five years' time, or that there'll be another job to be had. People know how much worse unemployment is when there are dependents, because we've all seen it, and it's not a lottery many want to enter.
posted by Devonian at 12:10 PM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


My wife and I are both in our 40's now, and childless. I'm torn because I know we'd make good parents, but I'm terrified at the expense. But our time to conceive is running out, and that's also a terrifying concept.

I wish we knew what to do. I'm afraid that we'll end up childless. I wouldn't be sad to be living for ourselves for the rest of our lives, with no one to worry about besides ourselves, but the thought of never experiencing parenthood does make me melancholy.
posted by starscream at 11:54 AM on October 17 [+] [!]


It strikes me that you are making an unnecessary direct connection here between conception and parenthood. Being past the age at which conception is possible doesn't bar you from experiencing parenthood.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:11 PM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


If it actually cost that much, the bankruptcy section of the paper would be much thicker.

What "bankruptcy section of the paper"? What are you talking about?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


What is driving the cost of childcare up? 'Cause it's sure not the salaries of childcare workers.

I know! Childcare workers earn a pittance, even ones with degrees or certifications in childhood development. Which keeps talented people out of the profession.

I think that free or low-cost, high-quality childcare - Montessori-type centers staffed by well-paid professionals - would do so much to benefit children, as well as their parents. Kids benefit from good daycare. They can socialize and learn and are better prepared for the world. And the parents get guidance from actual professionals who have degrees in child development, as well as knowing their kids are safe and supervised. And free daycare would be another set of mandated professionals to keep an eye on children and, hopefully, prevent or mitigate child abuse. (I don't think it would eliminate abuse entirely, but I'm sure it would cut it way down.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


What "bankruptcy section of the paper"? What are you talking about?

I apologize if you're just making a joke about papers going out of business, but newspapers print bankruptcy notices. You'll find them in the newspaper that charges the least for them - my city has a weekly that charges $35 for them and they and the new business license notices pretty much keep the paper going.
posted by michaelh at 12:14 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Having kids is expensive in monetary terms, but it's also expensive in terms of time and stress. Being a working parent, and especially if your partner is also a full-time working-out-of-the-house parent, means you have very little time to get kid and household things done yourself, unless you want to pay for them (and that of course adds up). This is pretty stressful.

If American workplaces were more flexible and more realistic I bet you would see the fertility rate increase. But if you're in a job where you're pressured to put more than 50 hours per week, how are you going to reasonably figure out daycare drop off/pick up? Who is going to get your kid off the bus? What if you get passed over for a promotion because you're not a "team player" because you dare to leave before 5 p.m. every day?

Kids don't have to be expensive in and of themselves. You can get inexpensive clothing and other necessities like car seats that are reasonably priced. It's not having the kid that adds the expense and stress - it's the fact that it is damn hard to be a working parent in American in 2014 - and I'm coming from a perspective of someone working a white-collar job with an employer who is fairly flexible. I'm salaried and I get paid sick days, and my boss is cool if I want to work from home with a sick kid watching TV. Not everyone has that freedom and flexibility, not by a long shot.

I have two kids and the thought of a third - I don't want to go through another unpaid 12-week maternity leave where I feel like I barely get to know my baby, I don't want to pump and be tired and exhausted for the next few months after that at work while my kid figures out how to sleep, I don't want my house to be a huge mess because my husband and I are now juggling two kids and a baby AND two jobs, I don't want to be low on cash because infant daycare for 5 full days a week is almost $2k a month... If I could take off a year - or even six months - paid or partially paid and if I knew the daycare cost wasn't going to be a huge black hole in our budget - basically, if I felt like we were getting ANY support from society at all - I would have another one, in a heartbeat.
posted by sutel at 12:16 PM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "If it actually cost that much, the bankruptcy section of the paper would be much thicker.

What "bankruptcy section of the paper"? What are you talking about?
"

You know, where there's all the ads that read "I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY!!!!"
posted by Drexen at 12:16 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


In a month I will be the age that my mother was when she had me. It is pretty much impossible for me to think of a way that I could make having a kid work in the near future, and I'm living with my boyfriend and we both work.

But I also think I have a much different lifestyle than my parents did when they were my age-- they lived near family who could babysit, they lived in a trailer on my grandparent's land while they built a house, they had a garden and in general lived a much more subsistence oriented lifestyle. When I think about people I went to high school with who have kids, they also have some of the same circumstances.

By contrast, me and my bf live in an urban area, spend a big chunk of our money on rent, don't have reliable family nearby, and spend a lot more on entertainment than my parents did. And the interest just isn't there at this point. So I think for me it's really a mixture of circumstance and choice.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:19 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lust keeps on lurking.
posted by notsnot at 12:20 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


el io: "In summary, I think we should be looking to Sweden as a model, not Somalia."

el io, we don't disagree, you just chose to read something into my comment that wasn't necessarily there. My point is that it is idiotic to keep children away from kindergarten/preschool and their mothers out of the workforce. Where I live this is done because allegedly it is cheaper to pay the mothers a modest monthly stipend for keeping their kids at home than to pay for proper daycare (building and maintaining that infrastructure). That deepens the same patterns over and over - children lack social/language/etc. skills when they enter primary school while the mothers have a harder time to find employment after a multiyear gap away from the workplace.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:20 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, it costs what it costs. I have three, ages 13, 8 and 4; we shop at the outlets or often Goodwill or yard sales for clothes, my wife is a sleuth that way. We shop at Aldi's or one of the discount grocers. You lay out money for sports and music lessons but you limit that based on what you can afford. You find other ways to save money. We bought a pop-up camper (used) and that's what we do on vacation, as opposed to the $1,500 beach rental every summer. It doesn't have to be a fiscal back-breaker.

What Sara C. says about people in some demographic categories tending to have more kids has me wondering if 20 years or so from now, we're going to have a national debate about how not just some economic classes bear a greater part of the SS burden, but whether some regions will bear a greater part of that burden. And if that debate starts up, how would that affect the national debate in general?


It's a good point, isn't it? Because the southern types who have a lot of kids, it'll be those kids paying for the retirement of all of those who didn't have kids because it was too expensive or because it would have crimped their lifestyle. And so now, while the debate is framed in terms of "makers vs. takers," the people with money having to pay to support those who don't, by then it may very well be those with less money paying to support those who have more by virtue of the fact they didn't have kids.
posted by kgasmart at 12:20 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


The irony would be that income inequality would increase birth control and abortions. Take that, Republicans!
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


My wife and I have to do some really obnoxious things to actually make having a child possible, but we count ourselves pretty lucky at this point that we're actually making it work. For the first 3 years of the kids life, we were in fact, not making it work, and our bank account was in the red almost the entire time. The saddest day of our recent lives together was realizing that we made $50 bucks a month too much to qualify for foodstamps, and had to surrender them.

Fortunately, these days, We both won the lottery and have workplaces that let us work 4/10 hour days a week; M-Th for me, Tu-F for her. So kid is only in daycare 3 days a week (which eats up almost exactly half of my paycheck). My take home wages are less than minimum wage per hour worked after taxes and daycare. We're doubly lucky because furnace.kid's daycare is a few blocks away from my work, and i'm able to bike commute with him (ie, we don't pay for a second car). Our daily overlap is pretty significant too; I go to work early, and my wife gets home later in the evening. We get like, an hour to actually see each other during the week. Our weekends are spent recovering. I'm nearly counting down the days until he hits grade school so that we can start working regular days again, and actually see each other.

And again, we consider ourselves lucky. It has been much worse for us, and is much worse for many folk out there with kids.

We went, so goddamn far into debt after he was born. We had good insurance when he was born, but even all the co-pays and doctors visits, and normal hospital stays from his delivery cost us our entire savings. As soon as his doctors bills came due, we were at zero. We basically remained at zero, living paycheck to paycheck for the next 2.5 years.

We're straight lucky to almost have it paid back off now, and we're trying to scrap together enough coin to, by the time the kid is in school, buy a house in a non-mega-shitty neighborhood. But that daycare bill every month actually keeps us from buying things we really ought to.

Having a kid in this country, unless you can financially afford daycare, is a goddamn financial nightmare. Most of my friends are sort of in the same general financial zone as my wife and I, and I willingly send them an excel spreadsheet of our budget just to show them how god-awful expensive it is.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:25 PM on October 17, 2014 [24 favorites]


We didn't actually win the lottery. We just feel like we did by virtue of the fact that we both flex our schedules opposite of each other.

The real lottery would be nice though.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:26 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


"What "bankruptcy section of the paper"? What are you talking about?"

You know, where there's all the ads that read "I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY!!!!"


Actually, no, I'd sincerely never heard of such a thing in my life.

But now that we've established that it is a thing - michaelh, can you explain why the size of the bankruptcy section causes you to doubt it "really costs that much to raise a child"? If the high cost is causing people to not have children, then they're not going bankrupt, so....what are you getting this doubt from?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:26 PM on October 17, 2014



Of course, one could just allow in a bunch more legal immigrants, who are very often in their prime working years and can contribute generously to social security.

The ones that work on the books, perhaps.


That's why Frowner emphasized "legal immigrants", unless for some reason you are assuming that legal immigrants to the US are somehow more likely to work off the books than those without documentation?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:33 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


That's why Frowner emphasized "legal immigrants", unless for some reason you are assuming that legal immigrants to the US are somehow more likely to work off the books than those without documentation?

Illegal immigrants often pay social security taxes.
Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration (SSA), told VICE News that an estimated 7 million people are currently working in the US illegally. Of those, he estimates that about 3.1 million are using fake or expired social security numbers, yet also paying automatic payroll taxes. Goss believes that these workers pay an annual net contribution of $12 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund.
posted by jeather at 12:37 PM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


What is driving the cost of childcare up?

In NYC there's a pretty high regulatory burden. My wife and I were thinking of doing a co-op-ish preschool with friends, and I recall thinking the rules were bonkers.
posted by jpe at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


My point is that it is idiotic to keep children away from kindergarten/preschool and their mothers out of the workforce.

I disagree.

I think it can be great for children (even ideal) to have a stay-at-home parent (doesn't have to be the mother). Feel free to point me to studies that show how children are better off if they are institutionalized 9 hours a day starting at the age of 3.
posted by el io at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


Right, I know that, I'm just not sure why someone would assume that adding legal immigrants to the workforce would not also contribute to social security.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:39 PM on October 17, 2014


Right, I know that, I'm just not sure why someone would assume that adding legal immigrants to the workforce would not also contribute to social security.

I assume it would, unless self-employed people don't pay it? Immigrants tend to start their own businesses at a higher rate than non-immigrants. Of course illegal immigrants are even more convenient for contributing, what with them paying in but never taking out.
posted by jeather at 12:41 PM on October 17, 2014


exactly what is this downswing in the birthrate going to do to Social Security 20-something years from now when I retire?

I am not an economist, but I have been told that the general response to "is Social Security going to run out?" is "not if we can remove the stupid cap on it at the top that limits how much the very wealthy have to pay in."

So there's no logistical reason it has to run out. Given the current crop of fuck-you billionaires calling the shots though, I tend to not assume anything.

But we need to not have a system based on "quick, everyone have kids they can't afford or don't really want!" though. Poverty is bad, but the birth rate going down is in itself not a bad thing. Our system needs to be able to adjust to changes in population, or it's not a workable system.
posted by emjaybee at 12:43 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Ugh just have kids you'll be fine they'll be fine if you want to have kids just have them and then figure it out like everyone else. (Says the nitwit living in a 3rd floor walkup with a 6 month old).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:45 PM on October 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


But now that we've established that it is a thing - michaelh, can you explain why the size of the bankruptcy section causes you to doubt it "really costs that much to raise a child"? If the high cost is causing people to not have children, then they're not going bankrupt, so....what are you getting this doubt from?

Well, first of all, it was just an off-the-cuff comment on my part, but people are still having children, just less often, and when you consult bankruptcy statistics and compare to income/savings statistics and to childbirth statistics, you can see that there must be a big mass of people who have children, aren't filing bankruptcy but don't make enough to come up with $250k over 18 years.
posted by michaelh at 12:45 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


My point is that it is idiotic to keep children away from kindergarten/preschool and their mothers out of the workforce.

I disagree.

I think it can be great for children (even ideal) to have a stay-at-home parent (doesn't have to be the mother). Feel free to point me to studies that show how children are better off if they are institutionalized 9 hours a day starting at the age of 3.


These are not the only two options. Onsite daycare (so that, say, a woman still breastfeeding could just go down and feed her kid, or check on her), flex-time, work-from-home, and overall better vacation policies would do a lot to allow parents to work and also be parents. Being isolated with a small child for 3-5 years is a recipe for losing your mind, for lots of folks. Adults need adult interaction and kids benefit from being around people who aren't their parents (and around other children). There is a wide middle ground between all-day daycare from age 12 weeks, or giving up your job. But American businesses still assume the dad-works, mom-at-home model and won't change till we force them to.
posted by emjaybee at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


A lot of those expenses are 'optional', with the caveat that the fewer of them you pay, the more likely it is your kid will end up in poverty later.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:49 PM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Our system needs to be able to adjust to changes in population, or it's not a workable system.

Well, when the system is fundamentally based on "economic growth forever," and "economic growth" depends on increasing population...
posted by junco at 12:50 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


having a healthy baby doesn't really cost that much it true. having a kid though--once they learn to want things other than food and shelter thats when the pain really starts to hurt. So I hear. I plan to make all my child's toys out of recycled sewer grates and weave them Nikes out of discarded Reeboks.

Also with all the money I save by NOT vaccinating them I th--*falls through a manhole*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:50 PM on October 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


these freeloader babies need to get good jobs, why are so many of them unemployed
posted by poffin boffin at 12:51 PM on October 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


I've taken a good look at economic, environmental, and sociopolitical trends, and I've reached the conclusion that somewhere on the top-ten list of the absolute worst things I could ever possibly do to a human being is to conceive them.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2014 [26 favorites]


people are still having children, just less often, and when you consult bankruptcy statistics and compare to income/savings statistics and to childbirth statistics, you can see that there must be a big mass of people who have children, aren't filing bankruptcy but don't make enough to come up with $250k over 18 years.

I imagine most of them have massive amounts of debt that they can (barely) afford to service, and lack the resources necessary to declare bankruptcy.
posted by junco at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Being isolated with a small child for 3-5 years is a recipe for losing your mind

Very, very true.

The world is crying out for some sociology grad student to do a study on the role of Facebook in the lives of SAHMs of toddlers.

Seriously, guys, a childhood friend of mine (proudly) posted a selfie this morning with poop on her shirt. Why.

WHY

I am generally not one of those "ugh Facebook amirite" people, but that was beyond the pale.
posted by Sara C. at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ugh just have kids you'll be fine they'll be fine if you want to have kids just have them and then figure it out like everyone else.

I've said this in other threads before, but this isn't true. This is a lie.

Had it not been for a couple of generous family members, our family would have been straight up homeless when my kid was about 2. They floated us. They let us live there rent free. Had it not been for those relations, we would have been fucked. It would be so awesome if we actually lived in a world where all you have to do is 'figure it out' after you have children…but there's many people who don't get to live in that world.

Your statement is true for people with resources, for those without resources the financial burden of having a child can ruin lives, careers and marriages.

The entire 'everything will be okay once you have kids' sentiment is a cultural myth that needs to be scoured from our consciousness. It is a lie, and it is a dangerous, harmful one.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2014 [35 favorites]


I am not an economist, but I have been told that the general response to "is Social Security going to run out?" is "not if we can remove the stupid cap on it at the top that limits how much the very wealthy have to pay in."

Well, yeah, but as you have also observed, I think the follow-up comment to this is "yeah, and monkeys might also fly out my butt." :-/
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2014


(That's why Frowner emphasized "legal immigrants

I emphasized legal immigrants mostly because I wanted to highlight that the attitude toward immigration needs to change - there will be undocumented people here (so I really should have said "documented") no matter what because people have all kinds of reasons for needing to cross borders. It would be a lot easier and neater to have people able to get documents, that's all.)
posted by Frowner at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


furnace.heart, I think that "ugh just have kids you'll be fine" was sarcastic.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


furnace.heart, I think that "ugh just have kids you'll be fine" was sarcastic.

Maybe in this particular instance, but in general people who say that mean it earnestly.
posted by junco at 12:56 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


a childhood friend of mine (proudly) posted a selfie this morning with poop on her shirt

That sounds totally normal. Because having a baby injects your brain with oxy-toxin or whatever it is called.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:57 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe in this particular instance, but in general people who say that mean it earnestly.

If it was sarcasm, I'll apologize for the tone, but not the message or sentiment. Too many people are told their entire lives that in earnest by people who actually believe it.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:58 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wasn't being sarcastic. If you want to have kids don't worry overmuch about having enough money. Plenty of rich people are terrible parents and plenty of poor people have great childhoods. That's all I was saying.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:58 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


yeah but you are presently covered in poop and therefore your own worst advocate.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:01 PM on October 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


Being isolated with a small child for 3-5 years is a recipe for losing your mind

Very, very true.


Not always. Know several moms for whom this was not the case. As with anything else, your mileage may vary; if it will drive you crazy, don't do it.

But daycare brings its own set of challenges. When both parents work, and are tired and stressed out at the end of the day, that's exactly when Junior wants your attention, because he/she hasn't seen you all day, and wants to tell you about his/her day. Dinner needs to be made or obtained, baths may be required, etc., all at the time when non-parents are decompressing and relaxing.

And as noted upthread, daycare can run the equivalent of a full-time salary; add in transportation and clothing costs, it can actually cost more to work than for one parent to stay home, and go crazy - or not.
posted by kgasmart at 1:02 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Feel free to point me to studies that show how children are better off if they are institutionalized 9 hours a day starting at the age of 3.

Do Effects of Early Child Care Extend to Age 15 Years? Results From the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development

From the abstract:
Higher quality care predicted higher cognitive-academic achievement at age 15, with escalating positive effects at higher levels of quality. The association between quality and achievement was mediated, in part, by earlier child care effects on achievement. Higher quality early child care also predicted youth reports of less externalizing behavior. More hours of nonrelative care predicted greater risk taking and impulsivity at age 15, relations that were partially mediated by earlier child care effects on externalizing behaviors.
Whether this suggests that kids are "better off" with daycare depends on how you weigh, say, academic achievement against risk-taking behavior. And of course this is just one study. I have the impression that this is very much an open question.
posted by twirlip at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I imagine most of them have massive amounts of debt that they can (barely) afford to service, and lack the resources necessary to declare bankruptcy.

It's fine to imagine it. I've read there are maybe a million people in the US who would file Chapter 7 if it was free. Even if they're all parents (say 100k/year get added to that total), that doesn't cover the gap. Plus, if they're able to get on with shot credit, debt-servicing expenses and no bankruptcy, then, they can't really be paying a quarter million to raise their children.
posted by michaelh at 1:08 PM on October 17, 2014


And let's be clear that a Montessori classroom is way different from fourteen toddlers in one room being watched by three harried day care staff!

I got one year in a Montessori program, and it was awesome: I still remember cutting up fruit and doing the big map with the flags and all that other stuff. When my first couple of kids were in day care, they didn't get things nearly that stimulating.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


kgasmart, you seem to be assuming that I'm saying that since I know some stay at home moms who are completely batshit, therefore I am against people staying home, or whatever. Honestly my comment is mostly flippant. But, yeah, a lot of stay at home moms I know seem to have a pretty odd relationship with social networking. No judgement.
posted by Sara C. at 1:18 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Actually, I would argue that having any kids would be pretty selfish, considering the devastating impacts global warming is projected to have by the time they're middle aged or nearing retirement.

Was there any point in history, either recent or distant, where the projected future for one's kids wasn't in some way grim? I guess there was the postwar Baby Boom, and look what that got us.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:27 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Especially for those of us women who are so unlucky as to have careers we love. I look and I look and I see almost no option for a perpetually underpaid humanities professional with student loan debt, a partner who's not much better off financially, and diminishing fertility...who dares to dream that she could have a child and continue working. It hurts, and it makes me so *&^%@!# angry that the arbitrary decisions of the (mostly male) board members who decide my salary end up determining whether my future family will exist. The complete lack of support for parents, especially women, as capitalism determines it in the US, is just so upsetting.

Like Sara C., I too look at my old pals back down South who've decided to be parents--often to 3+ kids, if they're religious--despite being broke. They make it work because one parent never cared much for a career anyway, and is happy to spend her days clipping coupons and (yes indeed!!) posting crazy shit to social media.

Having a job you actually like makes it much, much harder to decide.
posted by magdalemon at 1:31 PM on October 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


I'm in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and my experience to date is that having kids isn't very expensive, but that is because we have a somewhat functional society.

If my wife was working before giving birth she would have received parental benefits of 60% of her salary for around 9 months. As she was already not working she wasn't eligible for this. We also get monthly cheques from the government for about $100 for having a child. If our family income was lower then we would have received more, the $100 is what everyone gets.

When we had our first child our family doctor referred us to an OB/GYN because she (the family doctor) didn't have attending privileges at the hospital we were going to be delivering at. All doctor's visits prior to delivery were covered by our provincial health plan, and this included all the ultrasounds and the like. The delivery in the hospital was also covered by the provincial health plan, however the hospital did charge for a semi-private room (about $250 per night), some baby book and parking. The semi-private room was covered by my private insurance which cost something like $180/month and which I signed up for because we were planning on having kids. After she was born there were follow-up appointments with our family doctor (again covered by the government) and we also had to go to an urgent care centre because our daughter wasn't gaining enough weight. The urgent care centre referred us to a lactation consultant who we went to a couple of times (both my wife and I were formula fed so our mothers, who were both present, weren't any help for this) until everything was sorted out. This was also covered by the government. The urgent care centre also prescribed some ointment for my wife, which cost something like $20 (but was free because of my private insurance). All of my daughter's doctor appointments (and vaccinations) have been completely covered by the government. This includes appointments with an allergist but does not include the cost of her epi-pens (which my insurance covers).

With our second child we opted to use a midwife, and again this was all covered by the government. The midwife was great because after the birth she came to our house for the check-ups. With the midwife we had the option of a home birth or hospital birth. We opted for the hospital birth, which again didn't cost us anything.

Compared to medical expenses, education/day care is much more expensive. Our daughter is in day-care (montessori) part-time which costs about $800/month. I think it would be closer to $1,000 if she was going full time. There are subsidized spots available where there is little to no cost to the parent(s) but I don't know the eligibility requirement for that. The province has Early Years Centres which offer free programs for children and their parent(s). We went to a couple of them when our daughter was younger. The city also offers recreation programs for kids that are pretty low cost, however the sign-up process is terrible. Registration starts at 7:00 am for all programs that season and trying to get someone on the phone to register, or even register online, requires constant calling/page reloading until you are able to get through, at which point half of the programs are already full.

Our daughter will likely be starting full-day kindergarten from next September (free full-day kindergarten is available starting the year the child turns four) and from then on will be in the public school system. We live in an area with good schools, if this were not the case then we would have to look into private schools which can cost anywhere from $3,000 - $30,000, but thankfully that isn't needed because the schools here are good. There are things like optional attendance, French immersion, IB and gifted programs that would let kids go to a better school if their local one wasn't as good but I don't know how much support students (and their parent(s)) would get for applying to these things.

There are of course other expenses, buying a car, strollers, clothes, etc., but you can spend as much or as little as you want on these. Diapers are a huge expense. We were always planning on having 2 kids and so went with cloth diapers figuring over the long run it would work out to be cheaper, but it is still not cheap, and requires a lot of laundry being done in addition to the up front costs. Going from 1 to 2 children doesn't seem to be that much more expensive (can use the same car seat, most of the clothes are either hand-me-downs or gifts, we can all fit in the car). Also, only one will ever be in daycare at any one time. Having a 3rd would probably require a bigger car or mini van so we're sticking with 2.

Things in Toronto seem like they are much better than in the USA, but at the same time, Scandinavia seems ahead of us. There is lots of room for improvement, especially in evening out the quality of services as there are definitely hospitals I wouldn't want to give birth in and schools I wouldn't want to send my kids to.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:10 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's why Frowner emphasized "legal immigrants", unless for some reason you are assuming that legal immigrants to the US are somehow more likely to work off the books than those without documentation?

Hey, those dogs ain't gonna whistle to themselves.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:15 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


If my wife was working before giving birth she would have received parental benefits of 60% of her salary for around 9 months.

This to my (United States of) American ears is exactly the most astonishing thing I have heard this year. Wow-jemama! (I just made that up, I was so astonished.)

Is this really for-reals true? Tell me, are there any downsides to living in this "Canada" (assuming it's a real place)?
posted by newdaddy at 2:21 PM on October 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm curious about how the Canadians in this thread do about the educational aspect of the whole "having kids is so expensive" equation. Do Canadians lack the BUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS AMIRITE social narrative that is so pervasive in the US middle class?

I mean, not counting lost wages due to taking maternity leave and childcare, the infant part of having kids isn't the expensive part. For a lot of Americans, the terror comes from the feeling that they need to educate their children privately. Which is, frankly, a little ridiculous.
posted by Sara C. at 2:25 PM on October 17, 2014


Yes, it's true - there's a cap on that amount and it's taxed but still:

We cannot tell you exactly how much you will receive before we process your application. For most people, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2014, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $48,600. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $514 per week.cite
posted by kitcat at 2:25 PM on October 17, 2014


newdaddy, it gets worse. "In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. .... For 390 of the days, parents are entitled to nearly 80 per cent of their normal pay..." (source)
posted by desjardins at 2:26 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Do Canadians lack the BUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS AMIRITE social narrative that is so pervasive in the US middle class?

Hopefully the person in Toronto will come back to respond, but here in Edmonton, I seriously couldn't tell you if we even have any private schools here in the city...that's how little I have ever thought about it. And I have a child entering kindergarten next year. I haven't decided where she's going yet and it's not a big concern. I think most middle class Canadians approach it that way.
posted by kitcat at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2014


We spend almost nothing extra to maintain an extra mouth. But then again I live in Soviet Canuckistan, and the govt pays us for having kids.

Uh...how much are they paying you? Because my toddler's daycare alone is $1200 per month and the money we get doesn't even come close. It's like paying rent twice.
posted by Hoopo at 2:32 PM on October 17, 2014


Oh, sorry and the maternity benefits received are for a full year in Canada, not just 9 months. It's always been astonishing to me that people in the USA could be going to work after just 6 weeks off. It's not fathomable to me. I'm so sorry you don't have this.
posted by kitcat at 2:33 PM on October 17, 2014


The replacement rate for the US is currently 1.88 (2013 quoted from cnn) The only reason the US is growing is because of immigration. If all immigration ceased we would see a continued decline in population.

This replacement rate pattern has happened in most industrailized countries until pro neonatalist policies are introduced.

Maybe someone political will get on board because 'omg the caucasian population is decreasing and we must conserve privilage.'
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:36 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


In NYC there's a pretty high regulatory burden.

The regulatory burden is crazy. Yes, there should be high standards for businesses that want to take care of babies for money. But the standard can't be "nothing bad can happen to a child in your care, ever" because that makes the cost go out of control. In addition to the financial stress this puts on families, it causes many parents to put their kids in sketchy unregulated daycares which are far less safe.

I honestly believe the only real solution is a system like creches in France where the government directly runs low-cost daycare centers. That way the government can balance the regulatory requirements with the real financial burden they put on parents. But that has zero chance of ever happening in the US.
posted by miyabo at 2:49 PM on October 17, 2014


1) all tasks should be automated or outsourced to the extent possible
2) any task not fitting #1 above is menial, and should be performed by an illegal immigrant who must cower under perpetual fear of being arrested, imprisoned for an arbitrary length of time, and then deported
3) poverty is a crime, and evidence of moral turpitude
4) only the children of Law-Abiding Moral Citizens should be permitted to enjoy the fruits of American Civilization, because Patriotism!
5) ergo, only the wealthy should be permitted to have children

You're all acting like this is a complex topic. It's not. It's just math. Duh.
posted by aramaic at 2:50 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


My partner and I have decided that it's a terrible idea to have a child under capitalism. Firstly, because it would give capital another set of hands to play with, secondly, because obligation to a child would good and well trap us in the workforce forever.

I kind of feel like not having kids is one of the only effective protests against late-period capitalism. My kid's never going to have to debase him/herself to make some rich asshole richer, never going to be declared redundant in order to improve a balance sheet, etc., because s/he's never going to exist. That's not *the* reason my wife and I aren't having children, and I don't actually think of our decision as a "protest" per se, but it was part of the discussion.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:04 PM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well, when the system is fundamentally based on "economic growth forever," and "economic growth" depends on increasing population...

Increasing prosperity does not depend on increasing population. To the contrary, a decreasing population is better for everyone -- less crowding, less pollution, cheaper housing, higher wages.

What matters is not the total GDP, but GDP per capita. You can have the same output but fewer people which means that each is richer. Real prosperity comes from increasing productivity, not population growth -- fewer people able to make more stuff and afford more leisure time. There is nothing to fear from decreasing population.

Distribution of that increased wealth due to productivity is a different, and not trivial, issue.
posted by JackFlash at 3:07 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm curious about how the Canadians in this thread do about the educational aspect of the whole "having kids is so expensive" equation. Do Canadians lack the BUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS AMIRITE social narrative that is so pervasive in the US middle class?

As a data point: Australians get 18 weeks maternity leave (and two weeks partner leave) paid at minimum wage ($640 a week, I think) (and maybe some straight-up cash bonus? This always changes with the government and I haven't lived there for awhile), and public health care.

Australians are (sadly) big into sending kids to private schools (or big into saying "I want to support public schools, but I don't want to disadvantage my kids," anyway) -- 35% of Australian kids are in private school, versus 10% of American kids. I don't think too many Australians cite school costs as a barrier to having kids (I think a lot think they will put their kid in a public school until it comes to the crunch), but I know a lot of people worry about childcare costs (pre-K, basically), which is an average of $30 to $75.

Still, most of my Australian friends in the US have gone or plan to go home to have kids, partially because they're petrified of the health costs, partially because of family support (and some don't want kids with American accents).
posted by retrograde at 3:23 PM on October 17, 2014


el io: "I think it can be great for children (even ideal) to have a stay-at-home parent (doesn't have to be the mother)."

You know, that is a pretty limited view. Particularly for the populace with low socioeconomic status/educational attainment/earning potential it can be difficult if not impossible to create "ideal" conditions. The incentives program I mentioned is largely used by those groups. Highly educated women are less likely to have children in the first place and are also less likely to keep their children out of kindergarten, where I live. They decide against the monthly stipend for staying home and in favor of career advancement and a socially and educationally stimulating environment for their children.

If you need facts for the U.S. context, just look up academic attainment for children from families with low socioeconomic status (SES). Many groups systematically score lower in maths and English, for example.
Citing "Inequality at the starting gate":

"Before even entering kindergarten, the average cognitive score of children in the highest SES group are 60% above the scores of the lowest SES group. Moreover, average math achievement is 21% lower for black than for whites, and 19% lower for Hispanics." [...] "And the results are clear - disadvantaged children fall behind at a very early age, before they ever enter a classroom." [...] "There is also some evidence in the report about how these initial inequalities can be reduced. Children who attended center-based preschool arrive at kindergarten with higher achievement, providing the potential to reduce inequality by the time students reach kindergarten."

Maybe you are familiar with the racial achievement gap? Reardon and Galindo found the gap to exist prior to kindergarten. Now imagine that those kids were not given the chance to try to catch up in kindergarten and would stay at home until primary school starts. I mean we have the idea that education is the great equalizer that can eliminate pre-existing inequalities, no? That's why most countries have made education compulsory after all.

el io: "Feel free to point me to studies [...]."

It's pretty established that early childhood education is beneficial to academic achievement. Have a look at:
Entwisle & Alexander: Facilitating the transition to first grade: The nature of transition and research on factors affecting it
McClelland, Acock & Morrison: The impact of kindergarten learning-related skills on academic trajectories at the end of elementary school
Sassi: Got a raise? Thank your kindergarten teacher.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:42 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's another data point, for whatever it's worth -- and I hope to whatever god that it's not worth much:

I'm in my late 20s, and have been keeping stock of the socioeconomic landscape of my network for some time. Out of all my friends, colleagues, relatives and acquaintances in their mid-late 20s to early 30s: 2 out of 5 have long-term stable employment, 1 in 5 are unemployed, and a grand total of 5 of them have had kids (so far). Roughly speaking, about 2/3 of us have student loans in the tens of thousands.

We are programmers, designers and teachers, mechanics and massage therapists, project managers and firefighters. I think the median income between all of us is $34-36k? Excluding those unemployed, of course. There's one word that keeps coming up whenever my close friends and I talk about the prospects of being able to afford kids: terrified.
posted by Snacks at 3:52 PM on October 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


My partner and I have decided that it's a terrible idea to have a child under capitalism. Firstly, because it would give capital another set of hands to play with, secondly, because obligation to a child would good and well trap us in the workforce forever.

tl;dr: these proles are on strike.


Wait, is the decline of Socialism in the US due to some sort of actual Idiocracy effect!?

(That's a really interesting and courageous decision, incidentally.)
posted by TypographicalError at 4:11 PM on October 17, 2014


There is also the voluntary human extinction movement, which I mentioned in an earlier comment that seems to have been deleted.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:18 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I live in east Toronto (Scarborough). I pay over $2k/month combined for Montessori for my 3 year old full time, and wrap around care + transport for my 9 year old, plus a couple extras (French, math club). We do the transport cause the daycare attached to the school is full.

What costs me too is needing 2 cars because using transit in my 'hood to commute and get them home would be a 3+ hr proposition a day.

My 9 year old is in an under-average public school. If I had the money I would go private. It has been a middling experience so far. The Montessori was way better. But it's not horrible.

It is more expensive than I thought possible. It's partly lessons and some stuff - snow suits are hard to find used, etc. But it's also opportunity costs in our careers. I am really glad I stayed on my salary grid, etc. but after commuting in the second car, daycare, etc. I bring home about $200/mo.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:23 PM on October 17, 2014


We have good public schools here in Toronto, but they are not all uniformly good. I don't know if the schools follow the socio-economic status of the neighbourhood or vice versa but you tend to have good schools in areas with relatively well to do people (although two of the best elementary schools in the city, Seneca Hill and Hillmount, are in what should be a very middle class area). What happens then is that people will pay a lot of money to live in the area for the good schools so that their kids are guaranteed a spot. I know when my brother was moving back to Toronto, the rating of the local school was a big criteria, but the prices were just too high for what they would get (paying $800k+ on a house to live at Finch and Don Mills is just a depressing thought). Maybe at that point it makes more sense to save the money on the house and just send your kids to Upper Canada College/Bishop Strachan (private schools that probably cost somewhere around $35k/year).

This isn't a new thing either. My parents moved us a lot when we were younger to be in the good school areas, and they were both teachers (so presumably knew if some schools were in fact better than others).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:33 PM on October 17, 2014


But is there that same weird assumption I see everywhere here in the US, that, uniformly, public school is a bad idea and you shouldn't reproduce unless you can send your kid to Waldorf Montessori McSnowflake Elementary?

I feel like when I was growing up in the 80s/90s, parochial school was a thing some families did (including mine, actually), but the vast majority of kids went to the local public school. Now I seriously hear people say they can't afford kids because they can't afford private schooling, or worse, pulling their kids out of school entirely because private school isn't an option. Which was just not something that happened when I was growing up, but now I know at least two families who would honestly rather not educate their kids at all than send them to public school.
posted by Sara C. at 4:48 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


U.S. rates of private school attendance aren't the whole story. Many families buy homes on the very cusp of affordability for two people working full-time because they want their children to go to a good public school. These mortgages often become anchors when a parent loses a job, becomes ill or has his/her hours cut.
posted by Selena777 at 5:05 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


It strikes me that you are making an unnecessary direct connection here between conception and parenthood. Being past the age at which conception is possible doesn't bar you from experiencing parenthood.

Yes and no. I am not familiar with the foster system, but the general guidelines with regard to adoption are that the combined age of the couple cannot be more than 100. If the couple in question is already in their 40's, not only is their window to conceive shrinking, but their window to adopt is shrinking as well.
posted by vignettist at 5:14 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


But is there that same weird assumption I see everywhere here in the US, that, uniformly, public school is a bad idea and you shouldn't reproduce unless you can send your kid to Waldorf Montessori McSnowflake Elementary?

Not that I've seen. Public school is perfectly fine for most people. The 1% will be sending their kids to Upper Canada College and the like. Everyone else will just live in the area with the best public schools they can afford. Also, no one in Toronto cares where you went to high school (I will not speak for the rest of Canada on that one, perhaps other can chime in if that's the case where they are).

And it looks like I was wrong about the maternity benefits. As per kitkat's link, you get 15 weeks maternity benefit and 35 weeks parental benefit which can be divided between the parents. So pretty much a year if it is the mother claiming all of it. Compared to the USA this is great, but there are a ton of holes in this too. For one thing, if you're unemployed in the lead-up to giving birth then you won't be getting anything (you need to work something like 600 hours in the last year to qualify). I can understand the rationale, that if this person wasn't working anyway, why should they be getting paid to look after their kid, but I don't agree with it at all. The first months after having a baby for a primary caregiver are harder work than probably 95% of the jobs out there. The government doesn't have to pay the caregiver forever, but I'm in favour of them at least paying for that.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:15 PM on October 17, 2014


Now I seriously hear people say they can't afford kids because they can't afford private schooling, or worse, pulling their kids out of school entirely because private school isn't an option.

This is very much a thing if you live in L. A. (LAUSD), which we do. Our local elementary school is good, but our local high school was sh*t when I was high school age in the late 80's, and has only gotten worse, complete with gang shootings and metal detectors. No way in hell I'm sending my kid there. So we are stuck with trying to find affordable housing in another district (good f*cking luck, we've been looking for years and prices are only going up), or pay for private school.
posted by vignettist at 5:17 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder if we'll see an increased number of families living together in the future. Like three generations in one home, or two siblings and their families, or just two unrelated families who are friends. I've thought before that it would be so much easier to raise kids in a situation like that.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:26 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Feel free to point me to studies that show how children are better off if they are institutionalized 9 hours a day starting at the age of 3.

Do Effects of Early Child Care Extend to Age 15 Years? Results From the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development

From the abstract:
Higher quality care predicted higher cognitive-academic achievement at age 15, with escalating positive effects at higher levels of quality. The association between quality and achievement was mediated, in part, by earlier child care effects on achievement. Higher quality early child care also predicted youth reports of less externalizing behavior. More hours of nonrelative care predicted greater risk taking and impulsivity at age 15, relations that were partially mediated by earlier child care effects on externalizing behaviors.
Whether this suggests that kids are "better off" with daycare depends on how you weigh, say, academic achievement against risk-taking behavior. And of course this is just one study. I have the impression that this is very much an open question.


I'm surprised no one pointed out the assumption you made here, which is assuming "higher quality care" can only can from someone other than a parent.

Educated women are perfectly capable of providing high quality care with as much, or even better, intellectual stimulation for their own kids under 3 as a daycare center once pre-school or kindergarten is over for the day.

The argument asked someone to prove a toddler would be better off being in daycare ALL DAY LONG, and you didn't do that.

Which isn't to say that kids can't get good care outside of the home, either! They certainly can.

It is just very biased to tell someone it is idiotic for Moms to stay home with their kids if they want and have the means to do so, as happened up thread, and then try to talk down to people about their personal childcare decision like you know better than they do what is right for them.
posted by misha at 7:14 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


misha, you are addressing the wrong person for the wrong thing. 1. The person you are addressing did cite a study, not state their opinion. Note how it says "From the abstract".

2. It was my (now deleted) comment that said it was idiotic for the government to pay mothers a monthly stipend to keep their kids at home instead of investing in proper infrastructure. Where I live, the government does exactly that. And it is detrimental on several accounts: This incentives program is largely used by mothers with low socioeconomic status/educational attainment/earning potential who have a hard time to provide the same level of social and educational stimulation to their kids as a trained professional could. Due to the incentive those mothers are kept out of the workforce for years and have a hard time to find employment afterwards (when their kids go to school). Their kids perform worse when it comes to social/language/maths skills upon entering primary school. Educated women opt out of this program and prefer to send their kids to kindergarten while they stay and advance in the workforce. Inequality grows.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:43 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do Canadians lack the BUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS AMIRITE social narrative that is so pervasive in the US middle class?

Pretty much, yes.

I can understand the rationale, that if this person wasn't working anyway, why should they be getting paid to look after their kid, but I don't agree with it at all.

The rationale is more that the EI system funds itself, so if somebody doesn't pay into it they are not entitled to collect from it.
posted by davey_darling at 8:30 PM on October 17, 2014


I don't think too many Australians cite school costs as a barrier to having kids (I think a lot think they will put their kid in a public school until it comes to the crunch)

I worry that this will be me. I didn't grow up with a private school culture - I'm from New Zealand, which is obviously very culturally similar to Australia but one difference is that private schools are nowhere near as popular - the MoE estimates about 4% of NZ kids go to private schools, with a further 11% attending mostly government funded state integrated schools. In my home city, there are only two year levels for which it's even possible to go to private school. The whole idea of actually paying thousands upon thousands of dollars for private schooling still seems strange and foreign to me. So my general assumption has always been that my hypothetical future kids will go to a state school, just as I and almost everyone I know did, just as all my cousins' and siblings' and childhood friends' kids are doing.

But then I look at the situation here, and honestly can't help but wonder, would I be disadvantaging my kids? Am I just being naive when I think that school is mostly about developing social and organisational skills, and that I could provide at least as much educational enrichment at home with the extra money? There's a real chance I'm going to panic when the time actually comes and decide it's not worth the risk.
posted by lwb at 8:56 PM on October 17, 2014


Travelwithcats, I am quoting who I mean to quote, thanks. I know your comment started the derail, but it continued along the same lines with the daycare debate amongst others in the thread

And yes, the abstract quoted was referring to outside caregivers. I understood that just fine, too. My point was that the abstract's argument boiled down to kids getting early intellectual stimulation doing better than kids who didn't, and that intellectual stimulation could just as easily come from a parent as an institution, so the person using the abstract to make their point was not, in fact, proving that institutionalized care was better in any way, like they thought.
posted by misha at 11:08 PM on October 17, 2014


the voluntary human extinction movement

That... doesn't sound like it'll be a movement for very long.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 11:38 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't have any kids and doubt I will (because of biology mostly, plus not being all that interested in being a parent), but right now it feels like a whole bunch of people I know are having kids. They aren't unaware of the financial implications, but they also know that the marginal cost above their current lifestyle will be modest and affordable. If you already own or rent a house with an extra bedroom (perhaps bought in expectation of having a kid) and already have a safe and reliable car with room for a carseat, adding a baby isn't going to cause a jump in those expenses, for example.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:02 AM on October 18, 2014


But is there that same weird assumption I see everywhere here in the US, that, uniformly, public school is a bad idea and you shouldn't reproduce unless you can send your kid to Waldorf Montessori McSnowflake Elementary?
I don't think that weird assumption exists everywhere in the US, fwiw. I actually don't think it exists very many places in the US outside of upper-middle-class enclaves in big cities. Where I live now, the public schools are fine, and the only reason that people send their kids to private school is if they want to give them a religious education. It's pretty much universally acknowledged that you're sacrificing some academic rigor if you send your kids to private school.

Where I live, it's not expensive to have kids. Housing is pretty cheap and the schools are good. What's very expensive is childcare, which means that a lot of women end up quitting work to have kids. That's great if it's what you want to do, but I wish there wasn't so much financial pressure to make that choice if you would prefer to work. Also, it's brutal on single parents, which I guess is a theme everywhere in the US.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:52 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


(lifelong Canadian) - I don't know anyone who attended private school at any point in their life, unless the catholic schools count as private (I don't think you have to pay to attend these, though). And as a doctoral student in STEM, most of my friends are decently intelligent and often also very highly-educated people from more or less middle-class backgrounds, so the public schools did a perfectly fine job preparing us for university. I'm not sure who is attending the few private schools that exist around here, but I guess the rich kids - I don't know anyone from that kind of background, so I don't actually know.

I'm not as concerned about my future finances preventing kids as the article thinks I should be - the whole being Canadian thing probably does help there. At the same time, I had a pretty shitty Canadian childhood, a large part of which was directly caused by financial problems, so I won't consider having kids until I'm convinced I can comfortably afford to buy all the things I think are important for a child to grow up happy and secure. Not in the sense of iphones all around, but things like healthy and tasty food, field trips and other extracurriculars, and clothing that fits properly and adequately protects against (mostly cold) weather. I don't think this will delay kids forever for me, but I'll almost certainly be in my 30s before I can afford them, which is fine by me.
posted by randomnity at 2:05 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


That... doesn't sound like it'll be a movement for very long.

It's really more "website about some guy's ideas" than a movement as such, but it's been around for at least a decade - I remember telling my SO about it back when we were both in high school and generally enchanted by assholish ideas.

My mother said something to me once, when I suggested I might not have kids because of concerns about the environmental and human costs of overpopulation: that it's too big a sacrifice for the individual. I think she's probably right - for any given individual, their choice to reproduce or not reproduce has a relatively small impact on the world compared to the impact on that individual. Yes, in aggregate these decisions matter, but because each individual decision matters so much more to the person making it, you're never going to get the necessary buy-in. Also, and not wanting to make an Idiocracy argument (which, from memory, the VHEMT website addresses), but I do wonder what happens if all the people who care the most strongly about environmental issues choose not to reproduce. Do we end up with each subsequent generation having fewer and fewer of those values instilled, fewer people working on these problems? I'm not sure that would be a great thing either. Also, this.
posted by lwb at 2:36 PM on October 18, 2014


I also want to say - I feel so so lucky, in that my reproductive decisions will probably not be motivated in any meaningful way by finances. Because I live in Australia, with access to public health care and paid parental leave and relatively high wages even for low-skilled work. I'm a student and part-time employed, SO works two low-skilled part time jobs. We're not actively thinking about kids yet, but for lifestyle reasons. If I got pregnant, we could make it work, financially, and it wouldn't be a disaster. If we were in the same situation in the US, there is no way I would voluntarily have a baby.
posted by lwb at 2:53 PM on October 18, 2014


The way we've managed to afford it is all luck and family. His mom, my parents, and some financial planning on our part, plus we bought and sold a house at the bottom and top of the market, then took that and turned it around to make our mortgage cheaper. Without these things, we probably wouldn't be planning a #2. Daycare alone would kill us financially.

Mr. Offalark got laid off back in June, and after checking the dismal outlook of the job market, we made the difficult decision to be middle-class-poor for a while. We live on a strict budget, we don't go to fancy restaurants, and we don't take vacations. We've cut out every bell and whistle we're comfortable with cutting out. Most of my family will be getting handmade gifts for Christmas, and my daughter will probably only get a couple nice things from us.

We aren't living paycheck to paycheck, but we'll probably be there by January.

But we love our daughter, and we love being parents, and for us, it's worth it. And honestly, it's also temporary. Once the kiddo is five, husband can get a job (even if it doesn't pay as well as his previous job did), and we can go back to being a little less tight with money.

I have a pretty good job and pretty good healthcare, and even with all that, I have to live an hour away from my job to make all this work. I realize also that my concept of "poor" is nothing compared to the people working multiple jobs and cramming their entire family into a 700 sq ft apartment. I also have hope for future financial gains. I honestly do not know how anyone lives with the stress of supporting a family on minimum wage here in California.
posted by offalark at 3:23 PM on October 18, 2014


In Australia (well, NSW, but other states are generally similar), there is a multi tiered system of school education.
At the very top are elite private schools that can cost $25-$30k p.a.
They produce good academic results because they invest heavily in resources, offer scholarships to really smart poor kids, and generally cater to the off-spring of the establishment or up and coming rich.
There is then a swathe of second tier private schools attempting to do the same thing with poorer results as they lack the resources. But they are populated by kids of parents who reject public schools for a number of not very good reasons.
Next is the Catholic and lately, other religious schools. These charge more like $2-3k p.a. and rely heavily on government funding. They get average academic results mainly.
Then there are the public schools. There are a number of selective academic high schools, with heavy competition to get in. They have a population of academically gifted students, and none of the dead wood the elite schools carry from rich but stupid kids.
These schools get the best results over all.
There are then public schools which are selective for sport, art and drama. These are generally ok, with great results in their avenues of expertise. Many Olympians of recent years attended the sports high schools, for example.

And finally there are the local comprehensive schools.
These schools have to take the local kids, even if they are troublesome, poor achievers or from families who don't care a fig about education.
They get the lowest academic results. In more affluent areas, these schools are generally ok, in less affluent areas, they can be pretty ordinary.
As a rule, parents who do care try and get their kids into one of the other alternatives, exacerbating the problem as the local state schools become less homogenous and increasingly populated by kids whose parents don't care.
Obviously, there are plenty of caring parents who send their kids to comprehensive state schools (me, for example), but this is the thinking that is pushing down enrolment at normal schools in Oz.
posted by bystander at 6:29 PM on October 19, 2014


As U.S. Economy Worsened, Vasectomy Rates Rose, Study Finds

"During the recent "Great Recession," worries about the cost of raising children in an uncertain job market may have spurred an uptick in vasectomies, a new study suggests.

"Despite an unchanged desire for more children, men in relationships reported planning for smaller families," said a team led by Dr. Bobby Najari, a urologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Najari and colleagues reported the findings Monday in Honolulu at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
"
posted by VikingSword at 8:29 AM on October 21, 2014


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