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Connection between the economy and the fertility rate

By Victoria Fryer 

How much of an effect does the economy have on whether or not women choose to get pregnant? It’s statistically significant, say two Princeton researchers and reported in the Huffington Post. Babies are important to the economy. Eventually, they grow up to be productive workers (or, at least, we hope) and contribute to the government’s tax income. But what the researchers found was that the Great Recession will likely lead to an almost 9 percent increase in the rate of childlessness. Because, not only do poor economic conditions lead women to refrain from having children, but that decision then lasts beyond the economic recovery.

The researchers write: “We find it remarkable that changes in macroeconomic conditions have such a profound effect on individual women’s lives.” Of course women are looking at their finances as they weigh whether or not to have children.

Today, we have so many more methods of family planning than were available to women in the past, and it’s also becoming more and more socially acceptable to both choose to wait to have children and choose not to have children at all.

And women today also acutely recognize, I think, that financial insecurity can in many ways disproportionately affect them, as compared to men—because men, on average, still make more money, and women are still seen in many ways as primary caretakers of children.

Financial insecurity is a frightening thing. Anyone who’s had trouble making the bills or putting food on the table knows this. And financial insecurity in addition to another life depending on you is downright terrifying.

In addition, I think women who lived through the Great Recession in their early twenties probably have a greater fear of what the economic future might be, and see less promise of stability in that future.

I remember the dot com bust. I have seen layoffs in industries that people thought were stable. And I have had periods in my life during which I was unable to always buy the things that I needed. I understand that financial stability relies on careful planning and contingency plans.

So, yes—my perception of the economy certainly has something to do with my decision to not have children. For my husband and me, to not have the anxiety of wondering whether or not we will make the bills or afford the groceries is an important part of our mental well-being.

Of course, this doesn’t account for the whole of our decision to remain childfree. And I’m sure that no one ever really feels financially ready for a child. But that it plays a part is impossible to deny.

Victoria Fryer is a writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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Comments

  1. I was chatting to a childless by choice woman the other day, and she made it clear that money was the primary reason why she and her then husband chose not to have children. Today, in her 60s, she is both mortgage free and financially secure. Of course, as you rightly put it “no one ever really feels financially ready for a child”. But money worries do play a huge part in how many children people end up having or whether they have them at all.

    I grew up in an environment where money was always an issue and so, I know how dreadful it can be to raise children in such conditions. Yes children are the future of society, which is why we have all those policies aimed at helping families with children. My only issue with it, is when the system is abused by unscrupulous parents.

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