It costs more than $245,000 to raise a middle-class child up to the age of 18, according to recent statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture.
That helps to explain a different set of recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics.
According to NCHS, America’s fertility rate has plummeted to an average of 1.86 births per woman. That’s the lowest birth rate since 1986.
Of course, there are a lot of reasons some women decide not to have babies. The expense is only one factor.
Some career-driven women don’t think they would have enough time to devote to rearing a child properly.
One couple I know made a mutual decision early in their marriage never to have children.
They weren’t on some ideological tangent about how the world is a crappy place to foist on innocent youngsters.
Nor did they hate kids. In fact, the wife was a school teacher. They just didn’t want to have kids of their own.
Teenagers might be getting the message about the pitfalls of having children too early in life. The birth rate for girls aged 15-19 has dropped 10 percent from the 2012 level and 57 percent since 1991.
That’s one of the more positive aspects of these numbers.
Here’s another one. People who specialize in this type of quantitative research say a national average of 2.1 births per woman is called the “replacement rate.”
That’s the number of births required to keep the country’s population from declining.
It might not be such a bad thing if the U.S. population hit a plateau. After all, it’s been growing for years. We haven’t exactly been on the verge of running out of residents.
The fears that emerged in the 1970s about population growth depriving people in developed, industrialized nations of food and water were a bit hysterical.
However, it stands to reason that a decline in population could contribute to a healthier preservation of natural resources if the existing population is enlightened.
Let’s get back to how much it actually costs to have a child if you expect to live a middle-class lifestyle.
That figure of more than $245,000 does not include the costs of pregnancy. Nor does it include the cost of college tuition because the age of majority in most states is 18. That’s when most college-bound students become freshmen.
And the $245,000 figure isn’t full of items like tutoring for kids who need help in school or ongoing medical care for special needs children.
When broken down into percentages, the largest share of that total, roughly 30 percent, goes toward housing.
Just keeping a roof over your kid’s head, preferably a roof that doesn’t leak, is the biggest parental expense you’ll ever pay prior to your child reaching the age of 18.
It appears that the escalating cost of trying to provide your offspring with a better childhood than you had is doing more to keep the hospital incubators empty than birth control pills or Roe v. Wade.