Authored by Jeffrey A. Tucker via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
The large data sets on the cost of living and the cost of children are instructive. But nothing compares with the anecdotes you hear from people who once thought they were prosperous but now wonder if they can really get by while completely ruling out the idea of having and raising children. It’s a genuine shift and one that is devastating for the future.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating piece by a high-end worker in New York City. He has a great job and so does his wife. But during the last year, they discovered that they are truly living paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay the bills. They have discovered home cooking and have pretty well given up concerts and dinners out with friends. The writer was being deeply honest about a problem that seems to affect most people.
They thought that they had finally achieved the long-sought goal of prosperity. Instead, they feel a sense of impending doom. The kicker: the writer is in the C-suite of the Wall Street Journal itself! It turns out that this situation is now typical. A majority of Americans live this way!
And this is a childless couple. How in the world can they afford to have children? The wife cannot quit her job else they would both have to move, if they can find a place. Giving up a full income stream to raise a child is a huge expense in addition to the high costs of everything associated with children from diapers to formula to health care insurance.
The alternative is to keep working and put the kid in childcare. That is extremely difficult to come by everywhere. A report on childcare by Care.com offers some amazing data of the costs over the last ten years.
• Weekly nanny cost: $736 (up 56 percent from $472 in 2013). • Weekly daycare cost: $284 (up 53 percent from $186 in 2013). • Weekly family care center cost: $229 (up 80 percent from $127 in 2013). • Weekly babysitter cost: $179 (up 92 percent from $93 in 2013)
In terms of the most expensive places, the report offers the following. A weekly nanny in D.C. costs $885. In Massachusetts, it’s $865. In Connecticut, it’s $799. A weekly babysitter costs $200 in places like California. Daycare is going to run $250 to $400.
These are the most expensive cities and also the most regulated states. When there is no competition and the costs of opening child care are astronomical, this is what you get. However, the problem is also nationwide.
The report comments: “Today, families are spending, on average, 27 percent of their household income on child care expenses. And 59 percent of parents surveyed tell us they are planning to spend more than $18,000 per child on child care in 2023. It’s no surprise that 50 percent of parents are more concerned about the cost of child care than they were at this time last year.”
Think about this impossible situation that affects millions of young couples. You need two incomes to pay the bills, and that’s if you are lucky. Chances are that one of the two will need an additional part-time job, which is why multiple job holders are higher than ever before. That was the big change that occurred after the last great inflation of the late seventies. After 1985, women with children were more likely to have a remunerative job than not.
At the time, this was called “women’s liberation” but that was mostly a marketing gimmick to hide the dramatic decline in household income that required a second income to have growing household prosperity. That seemed to work for a while, even a long time. But as health care and childcare have become so expensive, the second income went from being a luxury to being an expected necessity.
Many people these days are hoping to homeschool children. This is especially true since the school closures forced so many millions into Zoom school that didn’t work and set a whole generation of kids back two years in learning outcomes. Many parents want to avoid that as their children get older. But homeschooling requires foregoing a full income stream. Only the richest can do that now, so that is ever more out of the question.
Oh and by the way, the Biden administration is considering new regulations on au pairs that would more than double their cost. The government wants to demand that they get paid the minimum wage, which would dramatically reduce demand and thus supply, thus ruining one of the few functioning migration markets we have.
After the school situation is solved, there is the problem of college, which introduces another set of problems. It’s no longer even thinkable that people can work their way through school and pay the bills. How many people are declining to have kids on those grounds alone? Who can afford to throw down $200K for a college degree in addition to paying the bills for the household?
For most of human history, having kids was just what you do, the whole reason for pairing up, and a driving force of the purpose of life itself. Today, we have different options and choices, and that’s great. But what happens when bearing children becomes completely unaffordable for any couple that has bills to pay, health care to cover, and would like to think about retirement too? That’s a huge problem and not just for the family but for the whole of society.
You will notice, too, that this grim situation is completely consistent with the depopulation agenda of elite classes that they have pushed for many decades. Elon Musk is exactly right to call this out and argue that it is a profound danger to society itself when the birthrate falls below its replacement rate. It literally means that humanity is dying out.
I do think it is about time that everyone admits that we have lost a huge amount in living standards over the decades. The expectation of two and three income streams in every household is a major culprit that is often not considered in the data. And yet in some ways, family income is all that really matters in terms of assessing the quality of life.
This week, I’ve been thinking back on the world my parents lived in circa 1958. They got married and immediately got in their car and drove to Northern California. Why? My father had finished his undergraduate degree in history and decided to go to seminary where he planned to study music. His ambition then was to become the director of music at a church.
While he was in school, they had one child, my brother, and then when my father got his first appointment, they had me. My mother did not work. Somehow, and this seems inconceivable to me today, the very idea that a family of four could support itself in California on the salary of a beginning church music director. And yet they were not poor. They were middle class.
Later they moved again and when it became fashionable for women with children to work, my mother together with her mother both obtained teachers certificates and took jobs. They were enormously proud of what they had achieved. They felt themselves to be upwardly mobile, and the family certainly benefited since by then my brother and I were happy in good schools.
All of this changed in the later 1970s as inflation kicked in. I can recall how my mother’s job went from being a joy to a chore that she could no longer give up. Things became intense as we needed more cars, more clothing, and mortgage payments were rising and rising. Now of course the situation is enormously worse, as everyone knows.
My point is that the circumstances under which my own parents decided to have kids back in the early 1960s seem like a completely different world. It was a time that was in many ways massively more prosperous. True, they didn’t have streaming videos and the internet but I can never recall being bored. Life was good.
I often hear Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. reflect on these days with a deep sense of nostalgia and an awareness that the American middle class was large and robust and optimism was everywhere in the air. This awareness more than anything is what drew him into politics to see if there is something he can do to bring back the greatest of the American dream.
I’m not sure that he or anyone can do it, but let’s not deceive ourselves. Poverty is spreading, the middle class is dying, the birth rate is plummeting, and the dream is fading faster and faster into the recesses of our memories. If you doubt it, speak to any newly married couple today about their plight and the decision to have children. You will get an earful.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times or ZeroHedge.
Sun, 12/17/2023 – 21:00