Priced Out of Parenthood


For June Cleaver’s generation, having multiple children by their mid-20s was a given. But U.S. fertility rates have plummeted to the lowest point on record. Many women are delaying motherhood, with the highest incidence among those pursuing higher degrees and career tracks. While there are social and cultural issues driving this change, the key force is financial. The average cost of raising a child from birth to 18 has risen over the decades, from $198,560 in 1960 to $245,340 in 2013 (U.S. government; adjusted for inflation). Also, delaying motherhood measurably increases a woman’s earnings. A generation of women became daunted by the uphill battle toward financial stability as they dealt with student debt, bleak job prospects, slow wage growth, and skyrocketing costs for rent, health care and child care.

But a dichotomy exists between the wallet and the heart.

While birth rates may have collapsed, the desire to have children has not. Somewhat unexpectedly, younger Americans prefer slightly bigger families than their older counterparts. Asked to name “the ideal number of children,” Americans younger than 30 averaged “2.7.” That’s greater than the country’s rate of fewer than 1.9 children per woman . The bad news for brands is that women having fewer children affects consumer spending. The good news is that there’s a role for brands to play by engaging on real issues that face women who are succeeding in becoming a mom: child care and housing costs, student debt, job empowerment and support for policies like paid maternity leave .

Pew Survey, January 2017