Kids Are too Expensive, Here and in China

 

shutterstock_223628806Consider two data points. The first is from China, which recently “relaxed” its One Child Only policy. For years, the official government position on families was, the smaller the better. This led to a large and ugly number of infanticides, mostly of infant girls. But relaxing the policy doesn’t mean there’s a baby boom on the way. In China, kids are expensive. From Shanghai Daily:

THE changes to China’s family planning regulations are unlikely to result in a baby boom in Shanghai, a local expert said yesterday. Zhang Zhen, a professor at Fudan University who specializes in demographics, said that based on his research, “most couples simply haven’t thought about having a second child.” As well as the financial implications, they worry about the broader social issues associated with expanding their families, he said.

“Many people are also concerned about the state of the social security system,” he said, adding that if the policy change “is not effective (in boosting the birth rate), the government must consider introducing measures to alleviate those concerns.”

Local woman Gao Shanshan, 32, who has a 4-year-old son, said she and her husband are not planning to have a second child any time soon.

“I’m worried about money. I would love to spend time with two children at home, but I can’t afford not to work, as that would put too much financial pressure on my husband,” she said.

Second data point is from the United States. From Fusion.net:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth rates among women between the ages of 20 and 24 dropped by 2% between 2012 and 2013. The birth rate among 25- to 29-year-olds has dropped 1% every year since 2008. A recent Fusion survey also found that 15% of respondents with student debt said that it had caused them to put off having kids.

And concerns about the cost of supporting a family are strongly reflected in young voters’ priorities heading into 2016. A survey conducted by the Make It Work campaign found that 84% of the “rising American electorate” — young people, people of color, and single women — support policies to expand access to childcare, establish a paid family leave program, and raise the minimum wage. That’s 9 percentage points higher than the overall electorate.

So much that’s irritating in the quote above, especially the phrase “rising American electorate,” which really bugs me for some reason. Or reasons.

Still, it’s slightly worrying that young people in the United States aren’t having children because, essentially, the government isn’t making it easy for them to. Since when has that ever been a criterion — let alone a deciding factor — in the raising of a family? Or am I missing something?

Children, since the earth was lava, have been seen as the pathway to wealth, not the net-worth-killers they are now. But that was because children worked — in the fields, on the fishing boats, in the shops and workshops. Even now: walk into any Asian-owned convenience store, or take a look at the shrimp boats on the Gulf of Mexico, and you see kids helping out with the family business. Unpaid. After school (we hope). But still working.

What we’re really talking about, I think, is the reluctance of city dwellers in both the US and China to have children:

… for the people I talked to—all of whom live in or around big U.S. cities, are in the age group of 18 to 40, and want to expand their families by having kids—things like uncertain job prospects, student debt, and a lack of access to childcare and paid time off were a big part of their hesitancy.

Which suggests two possible solutions, neither of which requires government handouts: 1) move out of the city; and 2) don’t get a stupidly expensive and utterly useless college degree.

I guess there’s a third one: start a small business and make those little brats work. Try this for a family motto: everyone earns.

There are 46 comments.

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  1. EJHill Podcaster

    Either way, not having children is expensive. Social democracies in Europe are close to collapse because they stopped having children – children whose taxes pay for all their precious health care and pensions.

    And because they didn’t have children they have immigrants. But not the assimilation-minded ones. They’re the kind that wants to come in and make your country the same third world hell-hole that they just left.

    • #1
    • November 19, 2015, at 6:38 AM PDT
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  2. Kim K. Member

    It’s ironic that at the time when kids are completely fetishized – scheduled playdates, organized sports, designer clothes and accessories, the “right” preschools through college – it seems most people don’t want more than one or two. Even at my church where people can give a nice talk about children being one of God’s greatest blessings the attitude seems to be “God, please don’t bless me too much.”

    Kids cost, they don’t pay. In other words, there is sacrifice involved, mostly in time and money. Lots of people would rather not go there.

    • #2
    • November 19, 2015, at 6:48 AM PDT
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  3. Scott Wilmot Member

    EJHill: Either way, not having children is expensive. Social democracies in Europe are close to collapse because they stopped having children – children whose taxes pay for all their precious health care and pensions.

    Exactly right – you beat me to the punch and said it better than I could have. It was the first thing I thought of when I read the headline.

    • #3
    • November 19, 2015, at 6:49 AM PDT
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  4. I Walton Member

    Who needs kids when we can import them from the M.E. and Mexico already old enough to work. On the other hand people with few or no kids have a different concern for the future and for saving, not to mention understanding and knowledge that comes from having kids, plural.

    • #4
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:04 AM PDT
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  5. Tuck Inactive

    Rob Long, reactionary. I love it.

    • #5
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:04 AM PDT
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  6. Miffed White Male Member

    Rob Long: Still, it’s slightly worrying that young people in the United States aren’t having children because, essentially, the government isn’t making it easy for them to.

    It’s not that government “isn’t making it easy”, it’s that government seems to be going out of its way to make it hard.

    • #6
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:32 AM PDT
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  7. Vance Richards Member

    Rob Long: make those little brats work.

    “Hey Johnny! Daddy is going to be busy working on the accrual report for this month so I am going to need you to post some sarcastic comments on Ricochet for me. I can’t do both so it is time for you to step up.”

    • #7
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:34 AM PDT
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  8. La Tapada Member

    Kim K.:Kids cost, they don’t pay. In other words, there is sacrifice involved, mostly in time and money…

    It has always been my motto that the most rewarding things in life require the most effort (time and money).

    • #8
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:39 AM PDT
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  9. Seawriter Member

    EJHill: Either way, not having children is expensive. Social democracies in Europe are close to collapse because they stopped having children – children whose taxes pay for all their precious health care and pensions.

    This seems a variant of the Paradox of Thrift, one that may actually be valid. Call it the Paradox of Children.

    The paradox of thrift stated that while increased savings is good for the individual, by reducing demand it is bad for society as a whole. (Of course, this assumes the savings are not invested, but rather put in a can under the bed.)

    Similarly, while not having children is bad for society as a whole, it is good for the individuals not having children, at least in the short run. It provides the individuals choosing to defer children more resources with which to commit to their own comfort.

    Raising children is like raising oak trees. The reward lies far in the future – when you near retirement. I have written about this several times.

    The Plague

    The Long Crop

    Every Other Friday

    Seawriter

    • #9
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:42 AM PDT
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  10. La Tapada Member

    Rob Long:I guess there’s a third one: start a small business and make those little brats work. Try this for a family motto: everyone earns.

    Or start a business out of your home, so that you can juggle kids and work and not pay daycare. That’s a huge savings and you get to bring your children up yourself.

    • #10
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:42 AM PDT
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  11. Matthew Gilley Inactive

    Wait until these folks are 80, homebound, and chronically ill – then ask them how much money they’ve saved by remaining childless.

    • #11
    • November 19, 2015, at 7:57 AM PDT
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  12. Jimmy Carter Member

    Rob Long: I guess there’s a third one: start a small business and make those little brats work. Try this for a family motto: everyone earns.

    I guess there’s a fourth one: stop abortion and make those little brats responsible for Their actions. Try this for a Family motto: if Yer old enough to create ’em, Yer old enough to raise ’em.

    • #12
    • November 19, 2015, at 8:01 AM PDT
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  13. EJHill Podcaster

    Matthew Gilley: Wait until these folks are 80, homebound, and chronically ill – then ask them how much money they’ve saved by remaining childless.

    80, homebound, chronically ill and being attended to by complete strangers without love.

    • #13
    • November 19, 2015, at 8:14 AM PDT
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  14. Qoumidan Member

    I would disagree the the reward of children lies far in the future. My mother has commented on that, as all her kids are now 16 and over, she now has a bunch of friends that help care for her. And that is something for me to look forward to, but all my kids are between 8 and 7 months gestation right now and while they are difficult in many ways, they are also an incredible joy to have. I have loved and enjoyed all my babies with only one time frame exception: I hate the first 3 months of pregnancy.
    The rewards of parenting are varied throughout the whole lifetime, and I wasn’t just looking to my financial benefit or for somebody to take care of me in old age. As such, the government as it is now has little bearing on our decision.

    • #14
    • November 19, 2015, at 8:38 AM PDT
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  15. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Spending on children is little different from spending on any other area of human existence. Kids are considered “expensive” because parents make them expensive.

    How much of the spending on children is necessity and how much is superfluous?

    Automobiles are expensive, but it’s entirely possible to reduce the amount one spends on an automobile without reducing functionality.

    • #15
    • November 19, 2015, at 8:53 AM PDT
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  16. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    I say we tax the childless.

    Rob Long: are you with me?!?

    • #16
    • November 19, 2015, at 8:56 AM PDT
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  17. Marion Evans Inactive

    One reason people used to have more children is these children took care of them in old age. Now with all the pensions, social security, Medicare etc., the state takes care of old people and the financial calculation has changed from “have kids, you will be better off” to “don’t have kids, you will be better off”. We are all at heart economic animals that respond to the right incentives.

    • #17
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:20 AM PDT
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  18. Miffed White Male Member

    Qoumidan: I would disagree the the reward of children lies far in the future.

    How about, the FINANCIAL reward of children lies far in the future?

    • #18
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:24 AM PDT
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  19. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Miffed White Male:

    Qoumidan: I would disagree the the reward of children lies far in the future.

    How about, the FINANCIAL reward of children lies far in the future?

    Dang child labour laws!

    • #19
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:30 AM PDT
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  20. Miffed White Male Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Miffed White Male:

    Qoumidan: I would disagree the the reward of children lies far in the future.

    How about, the FINANCIAL reward of children lies far in the future?

    Dang child labour laws!

    They mostly don’t apply to your own kids.

    • #20
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:39 AM PDT
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  21. Marion Evans Inactive

    Majestyk:I say we tax the childless.

    Rob Long: are you with me?!?

    It is a rational thing to do. You spend an enormous amount of money raising your children. You drive a pre-owned minivan and vacation in the Poconos. Meanwhile your childless neighbor is living it up, buying a Porsche, a boat, and vacationing in the southern Pacific and other exotic locales. But when you both retire, your children are paying for his social security too, not just yours.

    • #21
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:42 AM PDT
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  22. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    I was watching Kramer vs Kramer the other day. Before the custody battle begins, Ted’s lawyer asks him to sit down and write up a list of the pros and cons of why he wants to keep custody of little Billy. Ted has a long list of cons, and cannot think of one pro to write down… but he still fights to keep his son.

    People shouldn’t have children for financial benefits. But a society that does not wish to have children is a society that is dying, choking on despair, nihilism, and selfishness.

    • #22
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:43 AM PDT
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  23. Kay Ludlow Member

    EJHill:

    Matthew Gilley: Wait until these folks are 80, homebound, and chronically ill – then ask them how much money they’ve saved by remaining childless.

    80, homebound, chronically ill and being attended to by complete strangers without love.

    This might be the most depressing thing I’ll read all day.

    • #23
    • November 19, 2015, at 9:58 AM PDT
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  24. Jimmy Carter Member

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad: Ted has a long list of cons, and cannot think of one pro to write down… but he still fights to keep his son.

    Then… His Son watched Irreconcilable Differences.

    • #24
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:11 AM PDT
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  25. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    The ROI for children just does not work in a modern society. As the population becomes more educated the more they understand this.

    • #25
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:11 AM PDT
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  26. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    Kay Ludlow:

    EJHill:

    Matthew Gilley: Wait until these folks are 80, homebound, and chronically ill – then ask them how much money they’ve saved by remaining childless.

    80, homebound, chronically ill and being attended to by complete strangers without love.

    This might be the most depressing thing I’ll read all day.

    Eventually they will just kill senior citizens once they are past a certain stage and become inconvenient.

    • #26
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:17 AM PDT
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  27. Miffed White Male Member

    Fake John Galt:The ROI for children just does not work in a modern society. As the population becomes more educated the more they understand this.

    Having kids is hereditary. If your parents don’t, you won’t.

    • #27
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:19 AM PDT
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  28. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    Miffed White Male:

    Fake John Galt:The ROI for children just does not work in a modern society. As the population becomes more educated the more they understand this.

    Having kids is hereditary. If your parents don’t, you won’t.

    That seems oddly self-negating. If your parents didn’t have kids… how are you here again? :)

    • #28
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:22 AM PDT
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  29. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    Majestyk:I say we tax the childless.

    Rob Long: are you with me?!?

    Don’t we already? Property taxes that go to schools are one example of this.

    • #29
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:23 AM PDT
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  30. Weeping Member

    Misthiocracy:Spending on children is little different from spending on any other area of human existence. Kids are considered “expensive” because parents make them expensive.

    How much of the spending on children is necessity and how much is superfluous?

    Automobiles are expensive, but it’s entirely possible to reduce the amount one spends on an automobile without reducing functionality.

    I agree. I think this is why children are often considered to be so expensive – the parents’ expectations. It’s not that children need the expensive extracurricular activities, clothes, accessories, and schools. It’s that the parents want them for their children. If the parents would lower their expectations a bit, children wouldn’t be nearly as expensive.

    • #30
    • November 19, 2015, at 10:44 AM PDT
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