The News Story – Millennials want children, but they’re not planning on them
In a New York Times blog post this week, Katrina Alcorn highlights an alarming new study revealing that fewer than half of millennials are planning on having children.
In 1992, Stewart Friedman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania authored a study investigating the relationship between work and family. In that study, he found that 78% of Generation X graduates said that they planned to have children. Twenty years later, he ran his calculations again, this time on his millennial students. The percentage of graduates that said they wanted children, he was shocked to learn, had dropped by about half, to 42%.
Why the change in attitudes? The Recession seems to be partly to blame. Writes Alcorn, “Millennial students were steeling themselves to enter jobs where a full-time commitment means working 72 hours a week. A majority of millennials in the study said they wanted to have children someday; they simply didn’t see how they could make it work.” It is time, she says, for Americans to reassess their over-commitment to work. And perhaps it is also time for our nation’s legislators to reassess the policies that overburden young families, as having children seems to be one of the best ways to rectify some of our economic woes.
The New Research – The economic boost of childbearing
When American parents take on the burden of bearing and rearing a child, they deliver a huge dividend to society. So concludes a team of economists from Berkeley and Syracuse universities intent on assessing “the net fiscal externality to being a parent.”
Through careful economic accounting, the researchers assess, on the one hand, the costs a couple incurs as a consequence of becoming parents and the costs society at large incurs through their parenthood and, on the other hand, the economic benefits realized by the couple and by society because of their parenthood. These complex calculations yield the researchers’ “central finding”—namely, that each child parents raise constitutes a net benefit to society amounting to $217,000 in 2009 dollars. In the rather opaque language of economics, “the net fiscal externality of becoming a parent is [thus] positive and substantial.” Elaborating on this finding, in the same almost impenetrable jargon, the researchers assert: “Becoming a parent is tantamount to providing society with a non-depreciating capital asset that generates an annual flow of revenues, in perpetuity, such that the present value of the asset (at an interest rate of 3 percent) is $217,000.” Clearly, there are “substantial public benefits to childbearing.”
Read the rest here
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